Music in "Year of the Amphibian"

Visual art would seem to be more central in "Year of the Amphibian", but a lot of music is mentioned in the course of the story, and certain scenes hinge on music. Here I've listed every musical reference by chapter, with YouTube videos or Spotify playlists (plus Wikipedia for more information).

Warning: spoilers.


Chapter 2 - Early September

Conrad stops at the house of Mr. Onter, who plays for him a piano piece called "Allegro Barbaro" by the composer Charles Alkan (French, 1813 - 1888: Wikipedia), from his opus 35 set of major-key etudes. For the time of the story, the pianist would have been Ronald Smith, who was a pioneer in rediscovering and playing Alkan:

A more recent and clean-sounding performance of "Allegro Barbaro" is by Mark Viner.

Before Conrad leaves, Mr. Onter mentions another Alkan piece called "Minuetto Alla Tedesca". This is one my favorite short piano pieces, but it is little-known and rarely-played:


Chapter 5 - Early November

After a hailstorm, Conrad ends up at Mr. Onter's sipping tea. Mr. Onter pulls out a record of the "Carillon Nocturne" for piano by George Enescu (Romanian, 1881 - 1955: Wikipedia). Here's a recent recording of "Carillon Nocturne" by the Romanian pianist Raluca Stirbat (from her excellent set of Enescu's complete piano music):

In their discussion of the music after it plays, Mr. Onter mentions going to hear the pianist Paul Crossley play a late piano prelude by Gabriel Faure (French, 1845 - 1924: Wikipedia). Here is #1 of nine preludes:


Chapter 12 - Early April

When Conrad is suspended from school and hiding out in his room, he starts playing two different tapes at the same time, trying to figure out how many different combinations of his eight tapes he can make. He starts with Beethoven + Black Flag:

Beethoven - Piano Sonata #18 (Opus 31 #3), played by the Russian pianist Bella Davidovich, still my favorite performance of this despite there being so many others. I actually did have a cassette tape of this particular performance, and wore it out. All four movements are in this video, so you can wait for them:

Black Flag: Damaged (their first album from 1981 - on YouTube if you don't have Spotify):

After the first pair of tapes, Conrad puts on A Flock Of Seagulls + Count Basie:

A Flock Of Seagulls: Listen (their second album, from May 1983 - on YouTube if you don't have Spotify):

The Best of Basie: volume 2 (in overly-bright early-digital remixes) - volume 1 isn't there for some reason. I used to have cassette tapes of these. As my interest in Jazz has spread out over the years to more deep or subtle (or crazier) things I've naturally left Count Basie behind, but boy did I used to like some of those snappy tunes.


Chapter 14 - Early June

In the Alder House kitchen, top-40 songs play on repeat from the radio. I found an actual recording, with (Casey Casem!), of the Top 40 Countdown from June 16th, 1984. What a trip to hear this again:

https://www.mixcloud.com/discocampbell2/american-top-40-with-casey-kasem-june-16th-1984/

Every time Donna Summer's "She Works Hard For The Money!" comes on, the cooks tease Glenda. I had remembered this as an R&B hit, but listening to it now I hear how 80's it really sounds. Just listen to those syths!


Chapter 18 - Late July

Again in the Alder House kitchen, the cooks go off about another top-40 song, this time "Is There Something I Should Know?" by Duran Duran. I went back to listen to Duran Duran again as 'research' for the book and found much of it just... terrible, especially this awful song, so I let the cook J.J. express that feeling for me. Heh.


Chapter 22 - Early September

At the end of the story, Conrad returns to Mr. Onter's house and asks to hear the same piano piece by Enescu (Carillon Nocturne) as in Chapter 5 above.



Next Post Previous Post