Feast Your Ears: A Classical Thanksgiving Day Soundtrack | Nashville Public Radio

Feast Your Ears: A Classical Thanksgiving Day Soundtrack

Nov 22, 2017

Thanksgiving is upon us. For many Americans, the holiday means lots of food, lots of football and lots of time with family (for better or for worse). To accompany all your Turkey Day activities, whatever they may be, we’ve put together a holiday-appropriate playlist to suit your needs:

For early rising (and last-minute grocery shopping)

Jay Ungar, Molly Mason and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra: The Harvest Home Suite Overture

A collaboration between husband-and-wife-duo Ungar and Mason with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, The Harvest Home Suite opens with shimmering strings and gentle woodwind melodies perfect for coaxing early-rising cooks out of bed.

The energy of the piece picks up quickly, a nice shift in mood for when you have to make that frantic eleventh-hour trip to get a forgotten can of yams. But a quick trip to the store is nothing compared to the first Thanksgiving celebrants, who had to harvest their own vegetables and hunt wild birds before they could sit down for their feast in 1621.

Let Harvest Home be a thankful reminder of modern-day conveniences, and that most of our “harvesting” today can be done at your local grocery store.

For cooking:

Leonard Bernstein: “Turkey Trot” from Divertimento for Orchestra

As any Thanksgiving cook knows, preparing an elaborate feast is an act of masterful multi-tasking. With so many separate recipes, measurements and cooking times to juggle before the table is set, it can feel like a small miracle when it all comes together. But if it doesn’t, this bouncy and lighthearted work from Bernstein will keep your spirits buoyed in the event that you (KNOCK ON WOOD) overcook the bird.

For the dinner table conversations:

Charles Ives: “Thanksgiving Day” from Holidays Symphony

With Thanksgiving just days away and political issues looming large, there have been plenty of articles about how to survive dinner table conversations with your family. Here’s one strategy: play Charles Ives instead. A portrait of a year in New England, Ives’s Holidays Symphony runs the sonic gamut from beautifully tender to dissonantly brutal. “Thanksgiving” is not a quaint listen, but it’s definitely a healthier and more artistic alternative to arguing about tax reform with your Uncle Gary.

For the washing of the dishes:

Ralph Vaughan Williams: “March Past of the Kitchen Utensils” from The Wasps

Originally composed as incidental music for a Cambridge production of Aristophanes’s satirical comedy, The Wasps, this delightful march can also be an ode to the startling number of dishes that goes into making a successful thanksgiving meal. March on, dishwashers!

For your post-meal nap:

Max Richter: Sleep  

Blame it on the tryptophan and carb-overloading, but there is nothing quite as blissful as the after-feast nap. If you want to get really serious about it, you can listen to Max Richter’s 8-hour opus “Sleep,” for which he consulted with neuroscientist David Eagleman with the notion of exploring the effects of music on the subconscious mind. The piece was broadcast in its entirety overnight on BBC Radio 3 in 2015, and boasts being one of the longest pieces of recorded music, ever. If you don’t have time for that, the 10-minute excerpt above is a good length for a solid power nap. 

For general thankfulness:

Aaron Copland: “Simple Gifts” from Appalachian Spring

A Thanksgiving playlist is arguably incomplete without Copland’s famous reimagining of an 1848 Shaker tune. Recognized as a Milestone of the Millennium by NPR, Appalachian Spring “captures the essence of an ideal America, one of open fields and endless possibilities.” The lyrics of “Simple Gifts” in particular extoll the virtues of simplicity and being thankful for the most important of things: friendship, love, joy and freedom. 

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