Thursday, May 05, 2022

Happy Cinco de Mayo

The first music I ever created - with the aid of GarageBand - is this piece, which I titled Cinco de Mayo. This is from 2005! Seventeen years ago! I can't believe it. Tempus fugit.









Sunday, April 17, 2022

Saturday, April 02, 2022

Bonjour Biqui, Bonjour - happy 129th anniversary!

According to Wikipedia:

When Pierre-Daniel Templier (1905-1987) published the first Satie biography in 1932, Valadon was still living, and the author omitted any direct mention of her relationship with the composer. He simply noted, "Women did not play an important part in Satie's life. As a mature man, he was not known to have had any affairs."
 
However, Templier included a facsimile of the complete Bonjour Biqui, Bonjour! manuscript - its first appearance in print - which by its intimate nature served as a tacit acknowledgement of this youthful liaison. The facsimile was republished in Rollo H. Myers' English-language biography (1948), but as Valadon had died in 1938 Myers felt free to identify her as Satie's one "affaire du coeur" ("affair of the heart").

I take issue with this passage in the Wiki page:

(the score is) accompanied by a drawing of an innocent-looking Valadon Satie subtitled an "Authentic Portrait of Biqui". One need only compare it to Valadon's self-portrait of the same year or her depiction in Toulouse-Lautrec's painting The Hangover (c. 1889) to appreciate the extent of Satie's idealization. The sketch and Satie's bold, angular signature beside it dominate the composition, in which the different elements (music, text, drawing) are carefully arranged on the page for visual effect.

I don't think the cartoony sketch of Valadon on the manuscript of "Bonjour Biqui, Bonjour" is in any way "idealized."



 She looks like a queen from a deck of playing cards, but with a weirdly elongated head and her shoulders and arms hanging far away from her body. This is the Queen of Clubs from a deck from around 1900.




And what an unfair comparison - a cartoony sketch as the idealized version, versus the author's representation of a "non-idealized" version, a profile view of Valadon in a picture called "The Hangover." 





In my play LE CHAT NOIR, Bonjour Biqui Bonjour was written before the Cher Petite Biqui letter, but BBB, based on the date on the manuscript came after. April 2, 1893 was Easter Sunday.

Which is a good time to mention the David Sedaris piece that discusses how the French celebrate Easter. An excerpt:


"Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb," the Italian nanny explained. "One, too, may eat of the chocolate."

"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.

I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, "The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."

My classmates reacted as though I'd attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.

"A rabbit?" The teacher, assuming I'd used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wiggling them as though they were ears. "You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?"


"Well, sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have the basket and foods."

The teacher sadly shook her head, as if this explained everything that was wrong with my country. "No, no," she said. "Here in France the chocolate is brought by the big bell that flies in from Rome."

I called for a time-out. "But how do the bell know where you live?"

"Well," she said, "how does a rabbit?"

It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That's a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth--and they can't even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character; he's someone you'd like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It's like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they've got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That's the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there's no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell's dog--and even then he'd need papers. It just didn't add up.


Friday, March 11, 2022

"Je t’embrasse sur le cœur" ~ the 129th anniversary of the "Cher petit Biqui" letter

One of two portraits
of Suzanne Valadon
by Erik Satie

-------------------------------
Today is the 129th anniversary of the only known surviving love letter from Erik Satie to Suzanne Valadon.

This is significant to me personally, since Satie's relationship with Valadon is the inspiration for my play LE CHAT NOIR.

Satie wrote many letters and postcards, one of which got him sued, and images of them can be seen online. There is one currently available for sale for $5,000 and I admit I am tempted to buy it.

But the only online image of the Satie letter from March 11, 1893 is on somebody's Tumblr account. And it's only part of the letter and the image cuts off part of his signature.

The reason that this letter is so special is because it was written during their 6-month long affair, and because it survives. After Satie's death, his friends entered his apartment, and in addition to absolute squalor, found a number of letters (nobody seems to know exactly how many) written to Valadon, but never mailed. Satie's brother took them to Valadon, and she burned them all. 

I'm not the only one fascinated by this. In 2013 the BBC ran a program created by British media personality Alistair McGowan called The unsent love letters of Erik Satie.

It's pretty good except for the inevitable inaccuracies, like McGowan claims Valadon was 25 during the affair, but she was 27. 

McGowan has also written two dramatic works about Satie, Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear and more recently Erik Satie's Faction.

A composer, Elena Kats-Chernin, wrote a series of piano pieces called UNSENT LOVE LETTERS

The surviving Satie letter in the original French:
Cher petit Biqui            
Impossiblede rester sans penser à tout            
ton être ; tu es en moi toute entière ; partout            
je ne vois que tes yeux            
exquis, tes mains douces            
et tes petits pieds d’enfant.            
Toi tu es heureuse ; ce n’est pasma pauvre pensée qui ridera ton front transparent ;            
non plus que l’ennui de ne point me voir.            
Pour moi il n’y a que la glacialesolitude qui met du vide dans la tête            
et de la tristesse plein le cœur.            
N’oublie pas que ton pauvre amiespère te voir au moins à un de ces trois rendez-vous :             
1° Ce soir à 9 heures moins le quart de chez moi            
2° Demain matin encore chez moi            
3° Demain soir chez Devé (Maison Olivier) 
J’ajoute, Biqui chéri, que je ne me mettrainullement en furie si tu ne peux venir à ces rendez-vous ;            
maintenant je suis devenu terriblement raisonnable ;            
et malgré            
le grand bonheur que j’ai à te voirje commence à comprendre que tu ne peux point toujours            
faire ce que tu veux.Tu vois, petit Biqui, qu’il y a commencement à tout.             
Je t’embrasse sur le cœur.  
Erik Satie

Translation

Dear little Biqui
Impossible to stay without thinking of everything
your being; you are in me completely; everywhere
I only see your eyes
exquisite, your soft hands
and your little child's feet.
You are happy; it is not my poor thought that will wrinkle your transparent brow;
no more than the boredom of not seeing me.
For me there is only the icy loneliness that puts emptiness in the head
and sadness fills the heart. 
Don't forget that your poor friend hopes to see you on at least one of these three dates:
1° Tonight at a quarter to 9 from home
2° Tomorrow morning still at my house
3° Tomorrow evening at Devé's (Maison Olivier) 
I would add, dear Biqui, that I will not get angry at all if you cannot come to these appointments;
now I have become terribly reasonable;
and despite
the great happiness that I have to see you I begin to understand that you cannot always do what you want. You see, little Biqui, that there is a beginning to everything. 
I kiss you on the heart. 
Erik Satie

The image I found, online, of this letter, starts in the middle, with "don't forget that your poor friend" - "n'oublie pas que ton pauvre ami..."



The letter is read, lightly edited and almost complete, in my play.

Friday, March 04, 2022

No, Erik Satie did not only eat white foods(!!!)

When you research the life of Erik Satie you will inevitably find many people claiming, in all sincerity, that Erik Satie only ate white foods. 


With radio documentaries and a BBC Prom on the composer to his name, comedian and actor Alistair McGowan is fast becoming the go-to man for all things Satie. He's accepted seeing reflections between the musician's eccentricities – this was the composer who notoriously ate only white food, had identical suits for every day of the week, and wrote 'pieces in the form of a pear' – and his own status as a bit of an outsider in the world of showbiz.

I regret to admit I took the claim at face value myself, before I started to do my own research.

The white food claim is based on an essay that Satie wrote for the February 1913 issue of La Revue Musicale S. I. M.  And since a digitized version of the issue is available online, here is exactly what the article looked like on the printed page.

Satie wrote a series of articles for this publication, grouped under the title "Memoires d'un amnesiac."

Even without translation it's pretty clear that means "memoires of an amnesiac" which of course is a deliberately absurdist title. This particular installment is entitled "The day of a musician."





And the translation is:

The artist must regulate his life.

Here is the precise schedule of my daily acts:

My get up: at 7:18 am; inspired: from 10:23 a.m. to 11:47 a.m. I have lunch at 12:11 p.m. and leave the table at 12:14 p.m.

Salutary horseback riding, in the back of my park: from 1:19 p.m. to 2:53 p.m. Other inspiration: from 3:12 p.m. to 4:07 p.m.

Various occupations (fencing, reflections, immobility, visits, contemplation, dexterity, swimming, etc.): from 4:21 p.m. to 6:47 p.m.

Dinner is served at 7:16 p.m. and finished at 7:20 p.m. Come symphonic readings, aloud: from 8:09 p.m. to 9:59 p.m.

My bedtime is regularly at 10:37 p.m. Weekly, waking up with a start at 3:19 a.m. (Tuesday).

I only eat white foods: eggs, sugar, coconuts, chicken cooked in white water; fruit molds, rice, turnips; camphorated blood sausage, pasta, (white) cheese, cotton salad and certain fish (skinless).

I boil my wine, which I drink cold with fuchsia juice. I have a good appetite; but I never talk while eating, for fear of choking.

I breathe carefully (little at a time). I dance very rarely. As I walk, I hold my ribs and stare behind me.

Looking very serious, if I laugh, it's without doing it on purpose. I apologize always and with affability.

I sleep with one eye open; my sleep is very hard. My bed is round, pierced with a hole for the passage of the head. Every hour, a servant takes my temperature and gives me another one.

For a long time, I have subscribed to a fashion journal. I wear a white cap, white stockings and a white vest.

My doctor always told me to smoke. He adds to his advice: — Smoke, my friend: otherwise, someone else will smoke in your place.

This is clearly meant to be extremely silly and nobody could possibly take this seriously. Also, Satie claims he has a horse, and a park, and a servant. The same people who credulously repeat Satie's alleged eating habits never mention those things. Because if you know even the basics of Satie's life, you know he was poor his entire adult life except on rare brief occasions. 

We know what Satie really ate - whatever he could get, preferably at a dinner party given by one of his wealthy friends. 

And yet in spite of all the information available for free online, people keep claiming Satie ate only white foods:
  • He ate only white food, lived alone, and owned seven identical grey velvet suits which he wore every day of his life.
This one is from the allegedly journalistically respectable Guardian(!):
  • The stories of his peculiarity are legion. The one-man religious sect he established in Montmartre in the 1890s. The crazy titles of his piano pieces. The purchase of seven identical, grey velvet corduroy suits which he proceeded to wear, with no variation, for 10 years. His claim that he only ever ate food that was white.
I guess they figure, "well if he gave crazy titles to some of his piano pieces, he's capable of anything, so why bother doing any research?"

I've even seen one biographer invent a conversation in which Satie confides his alleged eating habits to Valadon. Biography and journalism are professions full of the lazy, the careless and shameless bullshit artists.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

I'm Waiting for the Man in the supermarket

I walked to the supermarket, enjoying the first day of Sprinter 2022.

Back in ye olden days, when you went into the supermarket, you heard muzak. You can hear a selection of supermarket muzak on Youtube.

Eventually supermarkets began to play pop tunes, often considered "oldies" by the time they were played there. I discussed some of my favorites ten years ago.

Today in the supermarket I heard the Velvet Underground's 1967 "I'm Waiting for the Man," Lou Reed's ditty about going to Spanish Harlem to score heroine. The 4/5/6 subway line in Manhattan has a stop at Lexington and 125th Street.

A live version of the song can be heard on The Quine Tapes.

If the supermarket ever plays Sister Ray or Black Angel's Death Song, you'll know that things have gotten really weird.


 

I'm waiting for my man
26 dollars in my hand
Up to Lexington 125
feelin' sick and dirty more dead than alive
I'm waiting for my man

Hey white boy, what you doin' uptown
Hey white boy, you chasin' our women around
Oh pardon me sir, it's furthest from my mind
I'm just lookin' for a dear dear friend of mine
I'm waiting for my man

Here he comes, he's all dressed in black
PR shoes and a big straw hat
He's never early, he's always late
first thing you learn is that you always gotta wait
I'm waiting for my man, ah, work it now

Up to a brownstone, up three flights of stairs
Everybody-body's pinned you, but nobody cares
He's got the works, gives you sweet taste
ah, then you gotta split because you got no time to waste
I'm waiting for my man

Baby don't you holler, darling don't you ball and shout
I'm feeling good, you know I'm gonna work it on out
I'm feeling good, I'm feelin' oh so fine
until tomorrow but that's just some other time
I'm waiting for my man, walk it home

Friday, February 11, 2022

Qui était Jeanne de Bret?



Personne ne sait!

Erik Satie dedicated his first Gymnopedie, his most famous and beloved work, to Jeanne de Bret in the 1895 publication edition of the sheet music. 

The second Gymnopedie was dedicated to Satie's brother Conrad and the third was dedicated to the composer Charles Levadé. One personally significant to Satie, the other professionally significant. So what is the significance of Mademoiselle Jeanne de Bret?

In his 1992 article, Satie and the Art of Dedication, Satie scholar Robert Orledge wrote:

Jane Bathori incidentally, first heard of Satie and his music through Satie's classmate Jeanne de Bret, the dedicatee of the first Gymnopedie (in its private printing), and Jeanne's sister, Valentine, was the dedicatee of the early Contamine de Latour setting "Chanson" in 1888.

That's it for the de Bret sisters though. 

I did my own research, trying to find any mention of the de Brets on ancestry sites, and while there were many born Jeanne de Brets throughout French history, none of them matched the age of what I assumed was a contemporary of Satie and there has been no Valentine de Bret, ever.

So in exasperation I emailed Orledge and asked him where he got that information. His response was that it came from Ornella Volta and:
"Sadly she died last year and I never found out where she got her information from. But she was always extremely reliable though."
Ornella Volta is the greatest Satieologist. It's my impression that Orledge is the second greatest.

Jane Bathori was a singer and at one point ran a theater. She was eleven years younger than Satie and died in 1970 at the age of 92. Bathori worked with Satie and knew many of the musicians in his circles. She herself was the dedicatee of many pieces of music.

After I got that unsatisfactory response from Orledge I began to Google "Jane Bathori" and "de Bret" which is what I should have done in the first place after reading Orledge's 1992 article. 

It turns out that Bathori had written a memoir, published in 1964 by Journal of the British Institute of Recorded Sound called "Musicians I have known." This piece is quoted in a book I found in Google Books, Satie Remembered written by... Robert Orledge! 

In 1964, Bathori wrote:
What a strange figure Satie was! I did not know him until I met him at a talk about him given by Roland-Manuel in a Paris salon in 1916. I had often heard him spoken of about 1890 by a class-mate to whom he had dedicated some of his earliest works, but she had not understood whom she had to deal with and had not given him the attention that he perhaps deserved; and I was too young to be really curious - otherwise I might have appreciated both the naïveté and elegance of his early songs...


 
So the mystery deepens!

First, while it's probable that Ornella told Orledge about the Journal of British Institute piece, it's clear that Orledge got the info about Jeanne de Bret from the Bathori memoir. And the way it's written, it sounds like Jeanne de Bret was a classmate of Bathori, not Satie. Another odd thing, Bathori heard about Satie from de Bret in 1890, which was five years before the 1895 edition of the first Gymnopedie was published with the dedication to de Bret. Also, the only work known to be dedicated by Satie to de Bret was the Gymnopedie, contrary to Bathori's "some of his earliest works" plural.

Weirdest of all, was this part: 
(de Bret) had not understood whom she had to deal with and had not given (Satie) the attention that he perhaps deserved;
Which makes it sound like de Bret was a young woman Satie had a crush on, but who was completely uninterested in Satie. But it's hard to know how accurate Bathori's memory was, she was 86 in 1964. 

And if de Bret was a classmate's of Bathori, she would have been around 12 years old, in 1890 and Satie around 23, and if that's the case I hope Satie did not have a crush on her. If she was 12 when she knew Satie, that would explain why she didn't appreciate Satie any more than Bathori did.

There's probably more to the story than that, but if Volta didn't discover it, I doubt it will ever be discovered.

While I don't doubt that Volta was reliable, my research into the lives of Satie and Valadon, for my play LE CHAT NOIR, has given me a bad impression of biographers in general. Many times I've caught them making claims that I know are incorrect. For example, in a published biography of Valadon, the author claimed that Satie wrote "Bonjour Biqui Bonjour" for Valadon for her birthday. But their relationship lasted from January to June, 1893, and we know that for sure because Satie says it himself. Valadon's birthday is September 23.

And then there are the idiots who believe Satie only ate white foods.

I will have more to say about that soon.

Satie's hand-written score for le premiere Gymnopedie. Sans dedication to Mlle. le Bret.




Sunday, January 30, 2022

Situations arise, because of the weather

I first heard the Velvet Underground's "Some Kind of Love" decades ago and I never really appreciated it until recently. The only thing that stuck with me about the song was the line "situations arise, because of the weather." I pretty much think of that line every time there's a snowstorm, like there was yesterday.

However, I was listening to Internet radio while doing some mundane online task recently and that song came on and it crept right up on me with its sneaky sexiness.

Perhaps it was because this was the first time I listened to it with headphones: I really picked up on Lou Reed's sexy little noises for the first time. Which in turn made me really listen to the lyrics.

Here it is. Put on your red headphones and find out.



Some kinds of love
Marguerita told Tom
Between thought and expression
Lies a lifetime
Situations arise
Because of the weather
And no kinds of love
Are better than others.

Some kinds of love
Marguerita told Tom
Like a dirty French novel
Combines the absurd with the vulgar
In some kinds of love
The possibilities're endless
And for me to miss one
Would seem to be groundless.

I heard what you said
Marguerita heard Tom
And of course you're a bore
But in that you're not charmless
Cause a bore is a straight line
That finds a wealth in division
And some kinds of love
Are mistaken for vision.

Put jelly on your shoulder
Let us do what you fear most
That from which you recoil
But which still makes your eyes moist
Put jelly on your shoulder baby
Lie down upon the carpet
Between thought and expression
Let us now kiss the culprit.

I don't know just what it's all about
But put on your red pajamas and find out


The song is only partially like a dirty French novel. Rather than combining the absurd with the vulgar it combines the absurd with the subtle.

We know that this isn't some kind of actual love because of the insult in the lyrics: "And of course you're a bore, but in that you're not charmless." That's not what you say to someone you love, it's what you say to someone you don't even like very much but you still find them sexually desirable. 

And that's what makes the possibilities endless.

Another subtle feature: put on your red pajamas. Not "put on your fishnet stockings" or "put on your ass-less chaps" but pajamas. Although they are still red pajamas.

Now about the jelly on your shoulder, which is mentioned twice. The Internet has thoughts:



 Jelly was old black jazz slang eg Jelly Roll and commonly picked up by white musicians like Van Morrison etc.


The "jelly" is KY, and it's on the shoulder for easy reaching?


Lou introduces this song on their live album as follows:

"This song is called 'Some Kinda Love', which is a dialogue between a guy called Tom and a woman called Margharita, and he's just trying to drink her like tequila and she doesn't like being salt thrown over her shoulder."

Hope to have helped.


Though I will say that “Some Kinda Love” ends with a pretty strong insinuation of girl-on-guy buttsex, unless there’s another way to read “Put jelly on your shoulder/ and do what you feel most… that from which you recoil but which still makes your eyes moist…lie down upon the carpet.” Who needs Fifty Shades of Gray?


petroleum jelly on the shoulder was used so the lube is easy to reach I believe

Between thoughts and expression... 

This one was my favorite:



I think Lou wanted to suggest a deviant practice so strange that nobody could put their finger on the details — like Iggy Pop's "Of course I've had it in the ear before." But that's just a hunch, and I can't see how anyone could prove it one way or the other.

That's the way to do it - it keeps things slightly inscrutable and open to imagination.

I never found Lou Reed especially attractive except for maybe his Transformer period.

But that man can make some sexy noises.




 



Monday, January 10, 2022

From the sublime to the ridiculous at the Barnes foundation

Valadon

Well the Barnes Foundation had a huge success with its Suzanne Valadon show. 

It’s hard to believe that “Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel” at the Barnes Foundation is the first American museum show for this sensational French painter...

...The show at the Barnes, curated by Nancy Ireson, is a thrilling tour of her portraits, nudes, still lifes and drawings.

I saw the show in October, but it was right before Mr. Fuzz died and he was pretty sickly at that point, so I was preoccupied with worry about him and didn't really enjoy the show. I'm glad it got a good response.

So how does the Barnes foundation follow up a show about a painter who portrays women as individuals and does not flatter her subjects and uses firmly delineated lines?

Renoir
With her polar opposite, Renoir, in a "January Spotlight Tour" and just to emphasize the difference the tour is called "Renoir and Women." Just look at the difference between the image above and this one. Same subject, completely different approach, visually and emotionally.

The Barnes Foundation is heavily invested in the reputation of Renoir - it has the world's largest collection of Renoirs.


The NYTimes article about the Valadon show mentions that although the Foundation founder Albert Barnes had paintings by Suzanne's son, Maurice Utrillo, he had none by Valadon. No accounting for taste.

I have loathed Renoir since I got a good snootful of him in art school - I attended both the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the University of the Arts. So I was very pleased to see the "Renoir Sucks at Painting" movement which started a few years ago. They are still out there, primarily represented via an Instagram account. But they've actually done full-blown, in-person anti-Renoir demonstrations in the pandemic before-time.



I imagine the Barnes Foundation trustees were not pleased when they got wind of this movement in favor of good painting and against treacle.

Now I don't think every painting by Renoir is bad. I mean he only painted a zillion canvases, he was bound to do OK once in awhile. But his paintings of women were terrible because he was hung up on this "eternal feminine" bullshit. And most of his paintings were of women.

But this portrait of Julie Manet is pretty good. 

Partly because it was a portrait of the daughter of his friends, so she does - partially - escape the eternal feminine treatment. 

And partly because, without the usual riot of colors he used, he was forced to focus on draftsmanship.

Mostly though, because he did a great job with the cat. He should have painted cats more. 




But thanks to Julie Manet's diaries, we know what a great big honking anti-Semite Renoir was:
...she faithfully records — and concurs with — Renoir’s relentless anti-Semitism (shared, alas, by the great Degas): “Today I was at Renoir’s studio, where the talk is all about the Dreyfus Affair and against the Jews. ‘They come to France to earn money, but if there is any fighting to be done they hide behind a tree,’ said Monsieur Renoir. ‘There are a lot of them in the army, because the Jew likes to walk about wearing flashy uniforms. If they keep getting thrown out of all countries, there must be a good reason for it and they shouldn’t be allowed as much room here…. It’s unsinkable, the Jewish race. Pissarro’s wife isn’t one, yet all the children are, even more so than their father.’ ”
So fuck 'em both.

Unfortunately Degas was an anti-Semite too. But I left that out of my play. And he does come off as a bit of an asshole, the way I portray him. Even if he did love Suzanne Valadon's work.

Valadon painted cats too.




Monday, January 03, 2022

Flashmobs 2021


Whither thou, graceful flashmob goddess?
---------------------------------------------------
I get a real kick out of flashmobs - when they are done right. I collected some of my favorite flashmobs in a Youtube playlist.

I even made a list of flashmob rules, which nobody asked for.

Unfortunately Youtube is now flooded with "flashmob" videos that break all the rules. Even worse, in the time since I made my list, a plague of "proposal flashmobs" have appeared and that's just terrible for so many reasons. 

A flashmob is not a private party, performed in public. And that includes birthdays, graduations, any other events. A flashmob should exist for itself, alone, as a public event, not as public window-dressing to a private event.


Flashmobs were more in vogue, a hot new thing, ten years ago, so there are more entries from then and so more chances for high quality. I fear we will see far fewer good flashmob videos going forward.

It's hard to top a bikini flashmob - you go, barely dressed college kids - you flash those pasty white bodies in the California sun. You are not their toy! 

Will we ever see a flashmob video of such perfect editing as the Ravel's Bolero in the Copehagen train station with the Cophehangen philharmonic? I fear not. 

And what about this adorable Bollywood flashmob from 2010 with the college professors and (fully clothed) college kids who range in dancing ability from painfully awkward to gloriously graceful? I so adore the Black girl who jumps into the performance at the 1 minute mark. I love her casual yet joyful dancing so much I almost tear up when I watch it. It's twelve years on now, I hope she has a job that she likes - maybe as a ballet dancer or dance instructor. Also thanks to this flashmob video I discovered this (definitely not flashmob) video, called Salaam-E-Ishq, a musical number as complicated and spectacular as anything from the golden age of Hollywood musicals. 

My native Philadelphia's City Hall Park has never looked so good as in this perfectly-edited flashmob video. The dude in the business suit - especially when he's in the fountain - raises this to next level.

This video, "IDF Israeli soldiers dancing to Kesha - Tik Tok in Hebron" is not called a flashmob, but I don't know what else it is. The fact that it's performed while on military patrol raises it to the level of sublime. You can't get any better than that.

It's so difficult to find good, recently-recorded flashmob videos now, because the majority of videos labeled "flashmob" on Youtube are nothing more than traditional staged musical and/or dance performances in public spaces. It took me ages to find videos from recent years that I consider real flashmobs:

  • Flashmob 'Danser Encore' Rotterdam May 2021 makes the cut although the video starts too late and is amateurish and badly edited. Also I'm not crazy about the song itself. And the performance is a little too raw, but that's better than too polished. And at least it has the performance starts with the element of surprise and builds gradually out of the crowd. It also helps that the person to get the flashmob going looks like a street crazy. It's always good to have the instigator look a little crazy, that way it's more gratifying when the entire performance in all its competent glory kicks in.
  • Choir Flashmob: Nessun Dorma (Puccini - Turandot) is technically a flashmob although it's not exciting - they could have picked a perkier, more well-known song. But at least it's flash and it's (barely) a mob. Which is much more than you can say for the overwhelming majority of recently-published "flashmob" videos.
  • Opera flash mob in Shangri la gets big points for having many of its opera singers dressed as food servers. The soprano's entrance is especially effective. Plus this video uses split screen at a few points which I have never seen before. And the crowd reactions are great. Points off for the commercial tagged on the end.

  • Flash Mob - Funny Student Performance During a Test should not technically be included because it breaks one of my cardinal rules for a good flashmob - it's not performed in a public space. However, it is so great in so many other ways I had to include it. It has the element of surprise, multiple cameras, a familiar catchy tune but original, very audience-relatable lyrics and even live music. And the reaction of the test proctor is priceless. This really captures perfectly the benign but subversive flashmob ethos right up there with IDF Israeli soldiers dancing to Kesha - Tik Tok in Hebron. And I agree with one of the commenters - if I was the prof I would give all the performers an A.