Music For Choosing A Buttonhole

dbtuxpeakcopy8qn.jpg(Achtung: The music files in this post are NOT set to play automatically. If they do, please alter your browser preferences so that media files play only on command).

Recently a forum member posed the question “What sort of music does a dandy listen to?” While the unanimous answer was “Whatever the hell he likes,” in this post I’ll alter the question to “What sort of music is dandyish?” and offer a suggestion.

At headquarters, when performing particularly arduous editorial duties, there is one genre of music I turn to for inspiration: British Light Music. While some might call it elevator music, I prefer to think of it as grand staircase music.

British Light Music consists of light orchestral music for things like ballets, films and plays. The emphasis is on melody. It is largely a 20th-century invention and therefore has developed alongside — though completely aloof from — the total dismantling of tonality by composers of serious music.

Besides the virtues of effortless elegance and a certain mischievous quality, British Light Music is wholly scorned by serious musicologists since it’s based on pretty melodies. It therefore has the added appeal of being a musical pariah proudly flying the banner of beauty over the shelled trenches of atonality.

I find the music especially appealing in the morning, as I could never listen to something like a Shostakovich quartet before lunch. It is also especially pleasant to listen to in the evening while choosing a boutonniere for a night at the opera.

My own collection is small but cherished. The following are a few of my favorite tunes.

First up is “The Boulevardier” by Frederic Curzon. No lollygagging flaneur this fellow: Just listen to that brisk pace as he marches down the avenue to give his tailor an earful of the ol’ rancid:

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Also by Curzon, “Cascade” has a charming main theme I relied on to soothe my nerves during my last root canal:

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Here is Anthony Collins’ “Vanity Fair”:

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This tune by Mark Lubbock is called “Polka Dots,” and is the perfect musical evocation of a dotted purple pocket square:

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In Benjamin Frankel’s “Carriage and Pair” one can almost see d’Orsay holding the reins with poise and aplomb:

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One of the greatest figures in the genre is Albert Kelelby. Here we have a delightful confection called “Wedgewood Blue”:

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Finally, from celebrated composer Edward Elgar comes the minuet from his “Beau Brummell” suite:

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In closing, I’ve noted there is no central resource on the web for British Light Music. I am considering adding a site on the topic to my Stickpin Media suite of sites and need an editor/blogger to run it. If the genre charms you and you’ve always wanted to be a self-professed Internet expert on something, send me an e-mail. You will be rewarded for your efforts with free CDs and everlasting glory.

And finally, here are British Light Music CDs available at Amazon, where a portion of the proceeds from any purchase goes to fund drinking habits.

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11 Responses to “Music For Choosing A Buttonhole”

  1. Miguel Antonio Says:

    My question was: “What kind of music can be considered dandy?” not “What sort of music does a dandy listen to?” and you were the only one who got it and answered correctly. Unfortunately you don’t give me credit for well placed question.

  2. Christian Says:

    You were misunderstood because you used the term “dandy” as an adjective, while others typically use it only as a noun and so were confused. If you had asked “What kind of music can be considered dandyish?” you would have gotten a more appropriate response.

  3. Sphinxvictorian Says:

    Oh, I am so delighted to find a fellow devotee of British Light Music! I was first introduced to the genre when I found a CD on Naxos label called Elizabethan Serenade. I listened to it once while staying at the beautiful Richmond Hotel in Richmond near London, on a very warm day, sitting in the hotel room with the window open, gazing out at the view of a beautiful Victorian house across the way. I ended up just listening to the same CD for hours. It became almost like a meditation on the beauty of the music and the view and the closeness of the air. It was almost magical.

    I would volunteer for your website, but I’m not really an expert, I just know that I like the music. I would happily visit the site, though, and be glad to contribute. I need to listen to much more of this music. I hadn’t heard Frederic Curzon’s work, for instance, or Lubbock’s. Although I do love Collins’ Vanity Fair. And Ketelby’s In A Monastery Garden. I have to admit having mainlined the CD over and over, I never learned all of the names of the composers or the titles of the pieces. And I long since lost the CD box, and the CD has been living in a CD sleeve. But now that I know that there are others who love it as much as I do, I will buck and be fierce and become an expert 😉 !

    Also, thank you for your perfect description and defense of this genre. I shall adopt it as my spoken defense to those who would say it was frivolous or precious. “Flying the banner of beauty over the shelled trenches of atonality.” Brilliant!!

  4. G~ Says:

    This very pleasant music!
    I have heard pieces like these before and enjoyed them; I just never knew the name of the genre

  5. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    Not as… uh, bombastic as I’d like. Where is the chutzpah!?

  6. G~ Says:

    Not Bombastic enough, eh?
    Well, if it’s any consolation, you’ll be happy to learn that once you hit 30 [and youthful hormones have ceased their cry], you’ll tend to appreciate more soothing music, with more flash and panache, and not just head-bangin’ chutzpah

  7. mgr Says:

    thank you! very nice & uplifting. makes me crave for a drink now. cheers!

  8. Bruxism Says:

    Nonsense. I only like this when I play them all simultaneously.

    On a serious note, two examples of a dandy approach to popular music that spring to my mind are to be found in the works of Luke Haines (in all his re-incarnations, from Baader Meinhof to Black Box Recorder), as well as less known but no less brilliant Phantom Ghost.
    Anyone who sees Bryan Ferry or Robert Palmer as somehow dandyish isn’t looking beyond the surface. Not to speak of the above samples.
    But perhaps it’s just the pop geek in me…

  9. B Says:

    and Boris Vian? isn’t his music dandyish?

  10. Decadent Says:

    Lovely music. Put on a reservation to my local library a minute ago.

  11. BertieWedgwood Says:

    Not to dwell on ancient (2008) history, but I believe Kelelby spelled Wedgwood correctly. But I suppose we should not be too dogmatic; the Wedgwood Pedigrees record 198 variation in spelling from the 11th century onward. And we should be thankful that the middle “e”, the most common affront, is among the least offensive. Please never use a “j”.

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