Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Grand Canyon Suite

I. Sunrise
II. Painted Desert
III. On the Trail
IV. Sunset
V. Cloudburst

Composed by Ferde Grofé (1892-1972)

Performed by The New York Philharmonic, 
Leonard Bernstein conducting

If you have genuine love for the rugged beauty of the great American West, you should love this music. It captures the essence of what most people surely must feel when confronted with the magnificence of unspoiled Nature in all her glory. The music captures too the lighthearted spirit of tourists who approach these things for the first time. Listen for the humor in On the Trail.


  1. Ah! One of my favorite pieces of music -- if a suite can be called one piece.

    I have a wonderful rendition of this on a CD, which I play over and over again.

    Music to soothe the soul.

  2. The Grand Canyon is an awesome place.

    I took the family there last year and we were blow away at the rugged beauty. Even after a few days, the sheer enormity of it still overwhelms you.

  3. Only two comments for this post?

    That paucity of comments speaks volumes.

  4. It is a nice piece, but it gives me the weirdest sense of deja vu, aside from your post yesterday ;)

    I initially wanted to say I heard it in a Warner Bros cartoon, but a little research revealed it to be from a 1958 Disney Short.

    I think the part that is most familiar is the third movement, Trail Ride... but Disney seems to have an iron grip on its copyrights as I was unable to find it on YouTube. Anybody know if the movie is available?

  5. NVM, I found it. Grand Canyon is available on the Platinum Blu-Ray Release of Sleeping Beauty for $77.99 on Amazon, if anyone is interested.

    Oddly, the Amazon description doesn't mention Grand Canyon at all, but I did find it in the reviews section after going back and looking after finding it in the description of the movie on


  6. If you can't say anything nice ... pretty pedestrian. Nothing much happening.

  7. Regrettably, "On the Trail" was used for years as the theme and "background music" for Phillip-Morris cigarettes. We'd hear:

    DONK - ee-DONK - ee DONK - ee DOODLEY!
    DONK - ee-DONK - ee DONK - ee DOODLEY!

    And then "Johnny," a midget dressed in a red page boy's uniform with brass buttons, a black cap and black trousers would intone, "CAAAAAALL FOOOOOOR PHILLIP MORIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISS!"

    and the rest of the program would ensue.

    It started on radio -- I remember as far back as 1945, and it seemed to be with me all during childhood.

    Johnny and "On the Trail" spread to TV as soon as that wretched medium established itself, and might be with us yet, if the anti-Smoking Hysterics hadn't shouted and sued their way to dominance.

    That may be the root of your feeling of deja vu all over again. ;-)

    The fact remains, however that the Grand Canyon Suite is a masterwork -- not quite on a level with the great Tone Poems of Richard Strauss -- but close.

    Really good music only grows more and more fascinating with repeated exposure.

  8. I don't know if Ferde Grofe ever received any royalties for the use of On the Trail. I hope he did, because he must have made BILLIONS for Phillip Morris.

  9. Tut tut, Canardo, it's a shame you weren't around to tell Leonard Bernstein that he was wasting the New York Philharmonic's considerable talents on music you deem "pedestrian." With your charm, tremendous powers of persuasion and vast array skills in the art of diplomacy you might have been able to persuade him to record one of the more unfathomable works of Elliot Carter instead. Surely it would have changed the course of history and been a blessing to mankind.

    Unfortunately, it's not enough to be smart -- and never enough to be right -- not in this fast-paced modern world where timing is everything.

  10. Pseudo-intellectuals invariably make the mistake of vainly imagining that any work of art the public deems "accessible" just HAS to be bad.

    I thought there was hope for you a while back, Canardo, when you said you loved Blossom Dearie, but I see I was mistaken.

    Too bad!

  11. Sorry, FT, but Grofé spent his career arranging for Paul Whiteman, sort of taking that nasty edge off good jazz.

    Blossom knew how to swing. Grofé did not.

  12. FT,
    People apparently don't want to enjoy music that is food for the soul.

  13. Food for YOUR soul, AOW.

    Nothing has restricted the availability of Grafé. You can listen any time you like and he's likely to be played on most of the remaining classical radio stations.

    Now are those stations likely to play,say Ives, let alone Stockhausen or Ligeti? No, and I'm sure FT would approve of the playlist and demonstrate his misnomer.

  14. Duck,
    My music preferences are quite varied: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical all the way through certain kinds of rock and pop.

  15. My dear friends, there is a diplomatic way to handle things that don't appeal to you when others in the same room are obviously besotted:

    Either say nothing at all, or make some innocuous-but-truthful observation such as, "It's always a great pleasure to hear great symphonic music beautifully played."

    Truthful-but-non-committal remarks of that sort cover the bases, keep the fans from feeling insulted, yet still allows you, the would-be critic to be true to yourself without branding yourself as a snide know-it-all who imagines himself to be so far above the common crowd that he has a duty to alienate them by disdaining their tastes and predilections.

    Need I say more?

  16. Yes there is indeed, FT. However, you have to admit that you can be dictatorial in matters of preference.

    What we get when popular tastes stay on a predictable path is homogeneity. Myself, I prefer a wide choice and wide availability. Let's take film because I know this area.

    I have choice but most don't.

    In order to get a wide variety (including those Japanese films you claim nobody in their right mind would watch) I need a region free DVD player, reasonable access to a museum or university film center and a subscription to Hulu+.

    Now if I want Apple TV I can't have Hulu+ because Apple thinks Hulu+ will cost them iTunes revenue and won't support it ... you can see how this goes.

    Still without going through some serious expense and effort I would be cut off from:

    Jacques Rivette
    Satyajit Ray
    Mikio Naruse
    Michael Cacoyannis
    Theo Angelopoulos
    Glauber Rocha

    ... those are just a few of the major directors whose entire catalog is generally unavailable in the U.S.

    The list of major out of print and non Region 1 discs is huge.

    Take one that you mentioned at one time - Sundays and Cybele. Unavailable unless you have a region free player. Why? Probably because it handles an unusual relationship in an open adult fashion.

    So most don't even realize how much they are limited by a for profit distribution system which virtually guarantees a limited choice.
    I shows my class Alain Tanner's Jonah Who Will be 25 in the Year 200 and we got into a discussion of whether or not it presented a true dialectic.
    First we had to get through the concept of dialectic.

    It's not something you'll get from the latest academy award nominee which is nothing but an inaccurate puff piece for the CIA. Now Argo is a pretty good technical effort but its substance is exaggeration and lies. Not very filling.

    Same with music. By not pointing out that some pieces may be very entertaining but insubstantial you don't push people to take a look off the accepted path. You run into a situation where you have lots of Internet classical radio but it's virtually all Baroque or light classical. The situation for jazz is even more restricted.

  17. Well, Ducky, I have some pretty rarified cultural preferences, myself, and deeply resent being surrounded and continually bombarded everywhere I go by sounds and sights that annoy and offend me.

    That doesn't mean, however, that I believe I should have a right to impose my tastes on everyone else, so I find myself staying home more and more, because I know damned well the world is NEVER going to adjust itself to suit MY needs and preferences, NOR is it gong to give me widespread opportunity and easy access to to things I'd like to know more about.

    I am, however, thankful I have been "exposed" to so much that has enriched my life, and that I've been able to pass on a little of that to others.

    As Auntie Mame famously said, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death."

    Perfectly true, but another well-worn adage springs to mind. "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink."

    You seem to spend a great deal of time resenting the world's vast indifference -- and probable hostility -- to things especially important to your way of thinking.

    Why waste energy on that? It only takes time away from more worthwhile pursuits.

    As you must know, I am perpetually pissed off by the decline in the usage and comprehension of English. To a large extent this blog and comments I post elsewhere constitute continual resistance to and protest against what-I-regard-as lamentable linguistic trends.

    I continue to USE and try to EXPAND the very large vocabulary I have acquired. I refuse to talk down to anyone. I don't give a tinker's dam what others think of me for pursuing the policy.

    The best way to combat what-you-believe-to-be unfortunate trends is not to allow yourself to participate in them, and thus become part of the problem.

    I don't resent your unusual tastes at all, Ducky. I probably share many of them, myself. What I do think foolish is the truculence and querulousness you indulge in just because the world is not what you think it ought to be. It doesn't help your cause one iota.

    Once again I offer a favorite quotation from GBS:

    This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you're thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

    ~ G. B. Shaw (1856-1950)

    Those words have been of great help to me in being able to see my tiny little self in better perspective to the Cosmos.

  18. By the way, if I want direct contact with The Passion Play, I have to go to Oberammagau at considerable trouble to myself and great personal expense. [Frankly I'm not even sure they still perform this historic event since the captious, agenda-driven, professional-hysterics who now rule the world decided some time ago it was (GASP!) "anti-Semitic!" WOO HOO! HUBBA! HUBBA! ROOTY KAZOOTIE! We gotta ban THAT!]

    If I want to hear Wagner's Ring cycle at its best, I need to travel to Bayreuth. If I want to hear chamber opera at its best, I must make the effort to go to Glyndebourne, etc, etc.

    SO WHAT?

    Here's the Lesson in Reality we all must learn sooner or later:

    Not EVERYBODY can -- or necessarily SHOULD -- have FREE ACCESS to EVERYTHING.

    And the preferences of tiny minorities of aesthetes and aficionados -- people devoted to composers like Anton Webern, John Cage, Elliot Carter, Milton Babbitt, artists such as Jackson Pollock, poets like Allen Ginsburg, the articles and columns of Susan Sontag and William Rivers Pitt, the exposés of Sy Hersch and Greg Pallast, historians like Howard Zinn, thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, -- and the products of abstruse Japanese, Indian or Eastern Bloc film makers -- will NEVER gain popular recognition and acceptance, nor do they NEED to.

    I have posted any number of truly magnificent music videos right here that drew little or no attention whatsoever.

    Again: SO WHAT?

    Let's face it: MOST people do not have the TIME or the INCLINATION to BOTHER with material that -- to them -- has no IMMEDIATE APPEAL, and does not AUTOMATICALLY pique their CURIOSITY.

    The world is what it is -- a confounding place filled with conflict, wonder, glory, brilliance, deep affection, great wisdom, heroic deeds, splendid acts of altruism, immense cruelty and incredible stupidity -- SO WHAT?

    If you have the capacity to APPRECIATE and ENJOY anything at all, REJOICE and BE GLAD.

    Allowing oneself to feel anger and guilt that not "everyone" has the best of everything is childish and frankly stupid.

    Not everyone can live in the penthouse. Someone always has to stay in the basement to feed the furnace, if nothing else.

    SO WHAT?



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