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‘Daddy-O,’ the incredible failed TV pilot that broke the fourth wall 25 years before Garry Shandling
11:13 am



Wow. I recently discovered a show that was up for consideration by CBS in 1961 that was as subversive and as “meta” as anything on the air now, but for understandable reasons never got picked up. Thank god the pilot still exists, anyway. It was called Daddy-O, and that title ought to signal that something was a little “off” about the show. It was developed by Max Shulman, whose main previous credit was consonant with the title of Daddy-O, the beatnik hit The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which had been a success for CBS since 1959.

The first scene of Daddy-O is by far the most mind-blowing. We start in medias res, as the dopey father of a typical television suburban family, “Daddy-O” himself, seeking to explain to his sassy children what a great foxtrot he was once capable of, strides out into the living room and promptly steps on a carelessly placed roller skate, after which his startled wife drops a meringue pie on his head. Cut to a TV control room, where an executive fervently cries, “No no no, you call that a laugh?” It turns out that HE would prefer “MH-9” at that juncture (“Mad Howl-9”), a tumultuous uproar on the laugh track that will really sell the scene. (If your mind blipped to a key scene in Annie Hall in which the Tony Roberts character does much the same thing, you’re not alone. The whole thing also reminds me of the old Olsen and Johnson musical Hellzapoppin’, in which the hectic action of the movie is governed from decisions made in the projection booth.)

We then get a scene in which a handful of TV professionals tinker with the sequence, including a soundman’s trenchant query “How do you know it’s that funny?” It turns out that Don DeFore, who was best known for playing Ozzie and Harriet’s neighbor “Thorny” on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and would later find a home as a key player on Hazel, is here playing “Ben Cousins,” a TV actor paid to portray “Daddy-O,” the castrated father figure in an anodyne TV series in the style of Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best. In perfect Brechtian fashion the episode features, in addition to the distancing debate over the laugh track, a lengthy (comic) demonstration of stunt techniques as well as a key character’s removal of makeup.

In the pilot, “Ben” wants to quit his job as the lead actor of the show within the show (because, as he insists, his job is to make “silly shadows on the screen”) and resume his erstwhile career as a master builder responsible for house construction—you know, a real job that actually helps people. Ben whines, “What do you want with me, anyway? The town’s full of actors!” The answer of his buddy Albert, the executive that hired him, is a masterpiece of exposition on the contradictory business of manufacturing a wholesome and mainstream artifact of popular culture:

The town’s full of actors with caps on their teeth, and toupees on their head and noses they were never born with. I don’t want an actor! I want a real guy, like you! Look at that face. People see a face like that on the TV screen, they gotta love you, they gotta believe you! Look at yourself, you wouldn’t hurt a fly! You’re clean, you’re wholesome, you’re pure, you’re harmless, you’re pre-digested!

Exactly, we don’t want toupees or rebuilt noses, we want pre-digested pabulum like you—you know, authentic!!

According to user bgrauman at, whose account, quite apart from being totally plausible, is the best one on offer,

This pilot was produced as a proposed series for the network’s 1961-‘62 schedule. I think even Max Shulman knew CBS was going to pass on it because it made fun of the kind of sitcoms the network (and their competition) were scheduling at the time.

And if there was one thing James T. Aubrey, the network’s president and chief programmer at the time, DIDN’T want on his schedule, was a comedy that “told the truth”...especially about TV {and situation comedies} in general. What HE wanted was the kind of “fatuous” sitcom that “Daddy O” satirized at the beginning of the episode- where Daddy’s a bumbling idiot- or the wife is scatterbrained- and the plot is nothing more involving than, say, “Hubby invites the boss to dinner, but Wifey burns the roast”. In fact, he objected to “THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW” because he didn’t Rob Petrie to be a New York-based comedy/variety show writer (“Too ‘inside’”, Aubrey told Carl Reiner and Sheldon Leonard,, suggesting “Couldn’t you make Van Dyke a Midwestern insurance salesman, like Robert Young on ‘FATHER KNOWS BEST’?” They refused, and Aubrey [who was virtually forced to schedule the show because its sponsor, Procter & Gamble- CBS’ biggest advertiser- insisted on it] tried to sabotage, then cancel the series by the end of its first season). No, “DADDY O” probably would have been received better as one of Max Shulman’s novels. It’s hilarious, but too far ahead of its time…

While it’s entirely possible that the show was just too radical, another problem is that the show isn’t all that funny, there just aren’t enough laugh lines per minute. Or as user Classic_TV_and_Radio_Fan puts it, “If Adolf Hitler watched TV, This is what he would watch. Being raped is more fun than this crap fest.” Ooooookay…..

What are the later TV shows that Daddy-O reminds us of? The obvious one is It’s Garry Shandling’s Show from Showtime in the 1980s, in which Garry Shandling played “Garry Shandling,” a neurotic comedian who is completely aware that he is in a sitcom. The most famous innovation of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was direct address to the audience at home, and Daddy-O has that too. Other examples include Chris Elliott’s awesome Action Family, also from Showtime in the 1980s, and last year’s delirious and haunting Too Many Cooks.

Darrell Y. Hamamoto, in Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and Liberal Democratic Ideology, aptly describes the underlying force of Daddy-O as well as explains where it would have headed:

Daddy-O as a self-reflexive critique of the situation comedy operated on two levels—ideological and structural. This was accomplished by beginning with the premise of Daddy-O being a situation comedy about a situation comedy.  Not only did Daddy-O mock the thematic and ideological conventions of the sitcom, but it did so in a way that laid bare the mechanisms for what usually passes for television realism.


Future episodes of Daddy-O would treat domestic themes such as “homemaking,” “child rearing,” “domestic bliss,” “domestic strife,” “civic virtue,” and “adolescent love.” Unlike other sitcoms, however,  the program would include “inside stuff” about Ben’s show business life complete with behind-the-scenes looks at writers’ conferences, laugh track sessions, music scoring, special effects, agency conferences, and other activities related to producing a sitcom.”

Here, in its entirety, the failed pilot of Daddy-O, passed over by CBS in 1961:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Real Horrorshow!: Malcolm McDowell and Anthony Burgess discuss Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Ken Russell was among the many directors originally touted to direct A Clockwork Orange before Stanley Kubrick. Russell was considered stylistically sympathetic to bring Anthony Burgess’s source novel to cinematic life—he had documented youth gangs as a photographer in the 1950s and made a series of highly influential drama-documentaries and films that had inspired not only Stanley Kubrick but also Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and later Derek Jarman. I wonder what Russell’s version of A Clockwork Orange would have been like? Perhaps more flamboyant, more seedy, more of the end-of the-pier, more human than Kubrick’s aesthetically pleasing but cold and sterile vision. And though the great and the good lobbied to have Mick Jagger play Alex, I wonder if Russell would have opted for his favorite actor Oliver Reed? Oh, what japes they’d have had. Instead Kubrick chose Malcolm McDowell because of his unforgettable and iconic performance as Mick Travis in Lindsay Anderson’s If…
Casting at first sight: director Lindsay Anderson was understandably smitten by McDowell’s beauty, talented and attitude when he cast him as Mick Travis in ‘If…’ The performance that led to his role as Alex in Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange.’.
McDowell had the blue-eyed, blonde beauty of a fallen angel—he would have been the perfect choice to play Lucifer for Kenneth Anger. McDowell was born in 1943 into a lower middle class family in Leeds, he was never the working class lout as some tabloids like to pretend but a privately educated son to a family who ran a small guest house. He was clever, smart, idealistic, and decided he wanted to be an actor. After school, he found found work as a stage manager on the Isle of Wight before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. McDowell embraced the cultural rebellion of the 1960s and hated the dominance of the established theatrical institutions, as he once explained to writer Michael Bracewell:

‘The RSC? Horrendous. Middle-class theatre crap…actorly acting with lots of shouting—after [Laurence] Olivier—and soul-searching performances…I mean I saw some great performances—Ian Richardson and Paul Scofield—but it was like being ordered around and told what to do by a bunch of little shitheads. I auditioned for the RSC by reading the Prologue from Henry VIII, for the very good reason that nobody knew it. It begins, “I come no more to make you laugh”, which was ironic, because humour has always been a great mainstay of my arsenal. I mean, A Clockwork Orange was essentially a comic performance. I used to loot my style from Eric Morecambe.’

Eric Morecambe (with umbrella and bowler) and Ernie Wise.
Eric Morecambe was the comic half to the much-beloved double-act Morecambe and Wise, who dominated British television screens in the 1960s and 1970s, which brings a different interpretation to his performance as Alex—one that would have been ideal for Ken Russell.

‘I’ve always had to live down A Clockwork Orange wherever I go, because ever since then, with the exception of O, Lucky Man!, which I made with Lindsay [Anderson] immediately afterwards, I’ve always been cast as the heavy. It used to irritate the shit out of me, and then I just got bored with it, you know? I just wanted to get on, maybe make a few comedies or do something else, but there was Alex…I know that I’ve said some mean things about Kubrick in the past, but thinking back to the actual shooting of that film and trying to forget all the baggage of what happened afterwards, it was an incredibly stimulating experience, even though I got to the point where I hated the film because of the reaction.’

This runs contra to McDowell’s enthusiasm as expounded in this interview about A Clockwork Orange he gave with author Anthony Burgess in 1972, but this was still early days and McDowell had not been hamstrung by his move to Hollywood, where he ended-up making movies for the lowest common denominator. McDowell is an exceptionally talented actor and no matter how dire the film he always gives a powerfully memorable performance.
The book and its Beethoven-loving author, Anthony Burgess.
Anthony Burgess came to hate Kubrick’s film too, which was ironic as the movie made Burgess a bigger star than his writing up to that point had achieved. Burgess is a writer’s writer, a polymath who claimed he would rather be known for his musical compositions than his books. Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange in 1962, after being mistakenly told he had not long to live. To ensure he left money for his wife, Burgess wrote a series of novels in quick succession, one of which was A Clockwork Orange. It was moderately successful on publication, a cult book, that became a bestseller after Kubrick’s movie. Burgess claimed he took the title from an old East London saying, “As queer as a clockwork orange,” which may or may not be true, as there appears to be no known record of this phrase. Whatever its derivation, it perfectly captured the book’s theme of a hideous artificial will imposed on natural behavior.
McDowell and Kubrick on set during filming.
After Kubrick’s film version of A Clockwork Orange was released in Britain in 1971, it was ironically linked to a series of violent crimes. The first was the murder of a tramp by a 16-year-old youth; the second involved another 16-year-old who, while dressed in the film’s distinctive gang uniform, stabbed a younger boy; the third was the brutal and horrific gang rape of a Dutch girl by a group of youths from Lancashire, as they sang “Singing in the Rain”.

Sentencing the 16-year-old for assaulting a child, a judge described the attack part of a “horrible trend” prompted by “this wretched film”. Following death threats and warnings from the police over revenge attacks, Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to pull the film from its UK release. For a very long time, through the 1980s and 1990s, the nearest place Brits could see A Clockwork Orange was Paris. It was only after Kubrick’s death in 1999 was his ban lifted and the film re-released in the UK.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Anthony Burgess and the Top Secret Code contained in ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Tension: Killing Joke live on German TV, 1985
06:01 am


Killing Joke

30 years ago, in March of 1985, Killing Joke released their fifth album, Night Time, an impressive creative leap and commercial success. The band basically jettisoned the tribal drumming and shouted vocals that had made their name in favor of a more accessible sound, though their music retained its anthemic loftiness and inflammatory lyrics. The album spawned the indelible “Eighties,” which somehow still packs a huge punch despite its long-passed expiration date, and the single “Love Like Blood” owed a significant debt to the poppier side of the gothic scene, and sported some mighty radio-friendly production. Their prior album Fire Dances had hinted at the more accessible direction, and Night Time‘s successor, the self-consciously grandiose Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, though quite good, sounds at times like an effort to make an entire album out of “Love Like Blood.”

Also in March of 1985, KJ appeared on the improbably named German TV program Live aus dem Alabama. The show was named for its shooting location, the Alabama Depot in Munich, a long-time military storage installation that received its conspicuously non-Teutonic name when the USA took the facility over after World War II. The program’s musical performances are listed here. Killing Joke’s performance, unsurprisingly, includes half of Night Time.

00:00 – Night Time
04:55 – Sun Goes Down
09:19 – Tabazan
13:42 – The Wait
17:29 – Love Like Blood
22:01 – Tension
25:16 – Change
28:50 – Pssyche
33:31 – Eighties
36:59 – Wardance

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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How a pre-fame Steve Martin and bachelorette duped ‘The Dating Game’ into a romantic Tijuana getaway
05:47 am


Steve Martin
game shows

In this adorable 1968 clip from The Dating Game, a very young and dashing Steve Martin competes against two other (super creepy) bachelors for the affection of sweet Marsha Walker, the real-life sister of Martin’s childhood friend, Morris Walker.

At this time Martin was a comedy writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and had already made a couple of appearances on The Dating Game. Using his clout as a writer, he was able to convince Dating Game producers to bring his “long lost” friend, Marsha, onto the program; the idea being that she wouldn’t know that one of the bachelors was, in actuality, her old friend, Steve.

Of course, Marsha Walker was indeed aware of Bachelor Number One’s identity in advance. The two had gotten together and planned possible questions according to Morris Walker’s book, Steve Martin: The Magic Years:

This was a great opportunity for a professional comedy writer like Steve to write some great material. Steve and Marsha got together and came up with some hilarious questions and answers.

Marsha asks the stumped Bachelor Number Three,“If you were a holiday, how would you like to be celebrated?” When he thoroughly drops the ball, Marsha quickly redirects the question to Steve who responds, “I’ve always had a great respect for Arbor Day. I’d love to be Arbor Day and be potted.”

Another question allows Martin to get in a fantastically biting jab at the nonplussed (not to mention, incredibly lame) Bachelor Number Two.

Considering the vast inferiority of his competition on this particular episode, even if Marsha Walker had not known Steve Martin in advance, it’s fairly obvious the two would have ended up together by show’s end.

Things being rather different in 1968, the pair was awarded an all-expense-paid trip to ever-romantic Tijuana to watch the bullfights(!?)

Morris Walker states in his book that he believes this trip served as an enormous inspiration for Martin’s film The Three Amigos. Walker relates that the pair witnessed a very upsetting goring at the bullfight and afterwards took in a pornographic movie. It being 1968, porno movies were the kind of thing you’d have to go to Tijuana to see. Later, Marsha Walker confided to her brother that her and Steve’s previously platonic relationship was taken to the next level at the hotel in Tijuana. According to Walker, Steve Martin’s “performance between the sheets was as entertaining and fulfilling as his wild and crazy performances in front of the curtain, only without the white suit.”

Here’s Steve and Marsha getting one over on ‘The Dating Game’:

H/T Robin Bougie at Cinema Sewer

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Discussion
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What a shitty thing to do: Pranked by exploding diarrhea
07:24 am



What’s worse than a fart in an elevator? Press play and find out…

That’s what these poor young chumps endured when pranked by some Brazilian “comedy” show for the viewing public’s edification and delight. As one commentator said “Just urgh…”

Next time, take the stairs.

H/T Metro

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Dr. Timothy Leary, MTV VJ
05:55 am


Timothy Leary

In 1987, Dr. Timothy Leary paid a visit to MTV to be a guest VJ. He had a few more IQ points than some of their regular contributors. It’s a treat to hear him set up the video for Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”:

Now this is a real heavy one—I don’t know what this means. It has something to do with the third world and the exploitation by the first world and our hopes that the third world will get behind the camera and start becoming part of the cybernetic age. I don’t know. Watch it and make up your own mind. It’s a good tune.

Leary also talks about playing percussion on “Give Peace A Chance,” shows off some early CGI in the video for “Hard Woman” from Mick Jagger’s unloved She’s the Boss, and shares his thoughts on Nancy Reagan’s drug policy. It ends with a spectacular Ike and Tina Turner rendition of “Proud Mary” that’s worth sticking around for.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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‘We use the music as an exorcism’: Cabaret Voltaire takes over ‘Night Flight,’ 1985
08:49 am


Cabaret Voltaire
Night Flight

For many ‘80s teens, the dearly beloved USA Network program Night Flight was a gateway to a whole wide world of cool shit that wasn’t being played anywhere else. There were definitely plenty of Friday or Saturday nights I spent gaping at J-Men Forever or a full Neil Young concert. In some ways Cabaret Voltaire was a perfect Night Flight band, both finding inspiration in European experimental art of the early twentieth century: Night Flight was named after an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry book, and Cabaret Voltaire was named after a legendary dada nightclub in Zurich.

On this particular summer night in 1985—the commercials for John Candy’s Summer Rental and Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II indicate the timing—Night Flight turned over a half hour of programming for what it called an “exclusive documentary” about the Sheffield postpunk masters.

Truly, hats off to the people at Night Flight for executing this in a way that the band itself might have dreamt up. The interview portions consist entirely of footage of Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson speaking to the camera—there’s no stilted Q&A with a network stooge, it’s all suffused in an ashen b/w mode that is entirely in keeping with the videos we see, of “Just Fascination,” “Crackdown,” and “a special 8-minute version of ‘Sensoria’.” (I’m not sure, but I think this is the 12-inch version that was later included on #8385 Collected Works (1983-1985).)

In the interview bits, Mallinder says, “If we tried to be straightforward and direct, then it would be contrary to what we are as people, and music’s just an extension of what we are as people,” later saying, “We use the music as an exorcism.” Cabaret Voltaire was never a cheery bunch, and if you’re not into postpunk this entire half-hour will seem not much different from a dreary Sprockets imitation. If so, your loss, dummy!

Also heard during the segment are chunks of “Nag Nag Nag,” “Seconds Too Late,” and “Diskono.”


Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Forget that shitty ‘CBGB’ film, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ from 1978 takes you inside the real CBGB

Three aspiring musicians: Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were looking for a place “where nothing was happening” for their band Television to play. If nothing was happening then the bar owner had nothing to lose. One day, down in the Bowery, Verlaine and Lloyd spotted a place initialed CBGB-OMFUG. They sidled across, went inside and talked to the owner a former singer and musician Hilly Krystal. As Lloyd recalled in Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s essential oral history of punk Please Kill Me, Hilly wanted to know what kinda music they played. They answered with a question:

‘Well, what does ‘CBGB-OMFUG’ stand for?’

He said, ‘Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers.’

So we said, ‘Oh yeah, we play a little of that, a little rock, a little country, a little blues, a little bluegrass…’

And Hilly said, ‘Oh, okay, maybe…’

In fact, the only real stipulation for appearing at CBGB’s was to play new music, and although Suicide and Wayne County had already appeared at CBGB’s (after the demise of the Mercer Arts Center), it was not until Television, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Dead Boys started taking up residency that CBGB’s changed from something where nothing happened to somewhere it all happened.

If you were disappointed by the shitty CBGB’s movie made a couple of years back starring Alan Rickman, then you will get a better sense of the energy, talent and musical revolution that took place at CBGB’s in the mid-1970s with this hour-long TV documentary Blitzkrieg Bop . Focussing on The Ramones, Blondie and the The Dead Boys, Blitzkrieg Bop mixes live performance with short interview clips and a racy newscast voiceover. It’s recommended viewing.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Saturday Morning Freakout’: A Forbidden Transmission from TV’s Graveyard
12:20 pm



“Saturday Morning Freakout” is an episode of the Forbidden Transmission public access cable show, which aired on Albuquerque Comcast Channel 27 from April 2007 to December 2007. The producer, Skeleton Farm Productions, uploaded a bunch of the shows to Cinemageddon recently, describing his handiwork thusly:

Each episode is a collage of rare movie trailers, b-movie clips, old toy commercials, obscure music videos, strange kids shows, bad foreign television and much more. It’s thirty minutes of pure brain-melting video weirdness.

It is. These zany video collages can be a dime-a-dozen, but when you find a good one, they can be full of pure gold. In just this one episode, “Saturday Morning Freakout” packs in clips of Richard Pryor’s kids’ show; Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, the Ramones doing the theme from the Spider-Man cartoon, the Bugaloos, Groovie Ghoulies, MC Hammer’s Hammerman cartoon, commercials for Star Wars toys, KISS dolls and the extremely curious Starsky and Hutch “action alley” play set. And plenty more. (Anyone remember the diabolical Dr. Shrinker and his dwarf sidekick Hugo?)

Spark one up and let Forbidden Transmission take over your mind for a little while. If you like what you see, there are more of these—plenty more—for sale on DVD on their website.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Noise music is for the children: The Shoreditch Experimental Music School, 1969

My education in experimental music came in my college years. Between volunteering at the campus radio station and living in a cheap apartment building in a neighborhood that had historically been a freak magnet, I hooked up with a cadre of students from a nearby music school who were into the weird stuff, and were cool enough not just to clue me in on 20th Century classical, the New York School, atonality, musique concrète, et al, they even invited me to make music with them. Over the course of two or three years, we filled up a metric shitload of blank tape and killed a lot of innocent cannabis plants, and it was all time very, very well spent. But seeing this BBC documentary on a late ‘60s experimental music program in the schools of Shoreditch, London, UK, made me wish I’d been from a time and place where I could have had many of those experiences (likely minus the cannabis, or maybe not) in elementary school.

The doc puts student works on display, starting with a piece exploring “heat, radiation, relentlessness, intensity, stillness,” with instructor Brian Dennis (the man who literally wrote the book on Experimental Music in Schools), who then gives a conducting demonstration, and a demonstration of tape effects. There’s a lengthy, edifying, truly wonderful visit to a class of very young children learning the creative use of tape recorders, and a science fiction story by one of the students, scored with music and sound effects made by his classmates. Then we’re treated to a lively and cacophonous student composition, scored with an invented notation. The program concludes with a genuinely creepy piece of drama, written, scored and acted by the students, wouldn’t you know it, about a cholera epidemic.

The sophistication on display here, even from some of the much younger students, makes me weep for the ultrashitty way US public schools treat arts education. (While athletics, naturally, are the inalienable milieu of young gods…) To keep myself from indulging in a rant about this—and I’d say nothing that hasn’t been said better by others, really—I transcribed my two favorite quotations from teachers in the program. There IS great educational value in difficult music, to wit:

“The children in this school have a great variety of creative experiences, musically, and we do try to make sure that the music is part of activity. All children are very interested in tape recorders, televisions, radios, in fact that is nearer their experience than are a great many nursery rhymes. Creative tape recording teaches them self-discipline, because they soon realize that if they talk at the wrong time it spoils somebody else’s work.”

“The children do have bizarre noise-making sessions as play, but I think this is quite a valuable experience. They soon learn that once they get used to the sounds, they need some other form of organization if they’re going to get more enjoyment. So naturally they progress to electing a leader or conductor, and they find there’s some need for notation of a sort, so they invent one, and they’ve progressed then from play to composition without actually being taught.”


Previously on Dangerous Minds
Langley Schools Music Project: children’s choruses sing Beach Boys, Bowie, Fleetwood Mac
With thanks to WFMU on Twitter

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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