18 December 2015

When A Cassette Becomes A Nutcracker

It's one of two pieces of Christmas music to which I could listen all year long. Handel's Messiah is the other.

You might have guessed the other:  The Nutcracker. I know, it's a ballet, and one really should go to a theatre or concert hall for a performance.  It is quite the spectacle.  I realize, however, it's not always possible to attend a staging.  Lucky for us, the music is very, very listenable. 

That the music, by itself, is so thrilling is not a surprise when you realize who wrote it:  Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Marius Pepita choreographed the original production of the ballet, which is based on a story written by E.T.A. Hoffmann  and adapted by Alexandre Dumas, who is probably best known as the author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. 

"That's all really nice," you might be thinking, "but why is she writing about it in this blog?"

Well, on this date in 1892, The Nutcracker premiered in the Imperial Marinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia (not Florida!).  Since then, it has been performed in ways that even Tchiakovsky himself, with his fertile imagination, probably never envisioned.  Here is one of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies:

Can you believe it was actually played on bicycle parts?  Cables and spokes were plucked for the stringed instrument sections, a disc brake hit simulates a triangle and percussion sections are really gears shifting, braking, shoes being clipped into pedals and other sounds familiar to those of us who ride.

San Francisco-based composer Flip Baber created this piece for Specialized, who wanted a Christmas music made only from bike sounds.  It became the company's musical Christmas card in 2006.


  1. I really hate this time of year but really enjoyed the video. One more week and the madness will be over and I can surface again...

  2. I stayed at a B & B in France called Casse Noix and foolishly thought it must be a strange local name for house of walnuts but casse is French for nutcracker...

    I hate christmas too.

  3. Aschoff--Thank you.

    Ruby and Coline--I hate Christmas, too, believe it or not. A Nutcracker or Casse Noix is one of the few things that helps me endure it.