Classical 91.5

Fascinatin' Rhythm with Michael Lasser

Saturdays at 11:00am-12:00pm on WXXI-FM 91.5, WXXI-FM/HD 91.5-1 and online at wxxi

WXXI's Fascinatin' Rhythm presents of popular American music from Stephen Foster to Stephen Sondheim, in the context of their relationship to American history. Every week, host Michael Lasser offers a rich mix of singers, songwriters and songs to explore the history and themes of American popular music.  LISTEN to this past week's show below.

Playlists for Fascinatin' Rhythm are located here.

Episode 2015

Odds are, you haven't heard of Annette Hanshaw, except that I play her recordings from time to time. One of the most popular singers of the 1920s and 1930s, she was too good for us to forget.

Episode #2014

Lovers are so often on the go that it feels especially comforting to snuggle and cuddle and nuzzle without ever leaving the house.  These songs merge romance and deep feeling with something intimate and downright sexy. 

Fascinatin' Rhythm: Lerner Without Loewe, 3/28/20

Mar 22, 2020

3/28      Program 2013

Lyricist Alan Jay Lerner goes with composer Frederick Loewe almost as easily as Fred connects to Ginger and Rodgers fits with Hammerstein. They wrote Paint Your Wagon, Gigi, My Fair Lady, and more. But they also had a sometimes contentious relationship and would sometimes part temporarily. Loewe, not as driven as Lerner, would find tropical beaches with beautiful women. Lerner would work with different composers. These are some of the songs Lerner wrote when Loewe was enjoying life but  he was hard at work.

Fascinatin' Rhythm: Doubling Down, 3/21/20

Mar 15, 2020

3/21      Program 2012

The “double song” was Irving Berlin’s term for a contrapuntal duet—two separate melodies with different lyrics that somehow fit together to become one thing. Berlin wrote more of them than anybody else, including the most famous of them, but he wasn’t the only one to write them. Here are some of the others.

Fascinatin' Rhythm: Keep the Music Playing, 3/14/20

Mar 8, 2020

3/14      Program 2011

The two consistent threads in popular music: it varies and it changes. Different styles abound at any given moment as you weave your way from Broadway to Harlem to Tin Pan Alley to Nashville. At the same time, public taste tires of something it loved only a few weeks or, at most, a few years ago. It ‘s not evolution; it has no sense of purpose except to be entertaining and successful. And so something new comes along. Here’s an hour’s worth of musical examples.

Fascinatin' Rhythm: Bing Crosby's Movie Songs, 3/7/20

Mar 1, 2020

03/07  Program 2010 

Bing Crosby was an American singer, songwriter and actor. He was known for his work on the radio and in movies. His most famous films include Holiday Inn  and White Christmas. On the radio he was famous for performing duets with other celebrities of the day. This week on Fascinatin' Rhythm, dive into more of the music of Bing Crosby's movies.

2/29      Episode #2009

Bing Crosby’s career took off in the late twenties and early thirties when he left the Paul Whiteman Orchestra’s Rhythm Boys to perform as a soloist. He was soon making two-reel movies in which he crooned to a pretty girl. For the rest of his career, he made musical and non-musical movies alike, but in almost every one of them he sang--from The Big Broadcast in 1932 to High Society in 1956.

2/22     Episode # 2008

Most catalogue songs are exercises in wit based on a single premise—“You’re the Top” or “Let’s Do It.” They’re about the songwriter’s ability to weave a list of clever if arbitrary associations. Sometimes, though, the song might feature a more interesting point of view that reveals something about character or situation. These list songs feature the names of the famous, both real and fictional.

2/15      Episode # 2007

There’s no river named Swanee. But there is one named Suwanee. It runs south and west from the Okefenokee Swamp in Southern Georgia until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico near Suwanee, Florida, just south of the Florida panhandle. That’s the river, but when it turns into a song it uses an elided form and becomes the Swanee, one of the most recognizable rivers in American song. George Gershwin and Irving Caesar wrote the most important Swanee song in 1919, but there are lots of others, going back at least as far as Stephen Foster in 1851.

2/8       Episode # 2006

When the eleven o’clock number got its name, curtains rose at 8:40 and dropped at about 11:20. But by the middle of the second act of a Broadway musical, audiences can grow drowsy. You need a big production number to wake them up in time for the finale and bows. Regardless of style or approach, the song and its performance had to be big enough to re-engage an audience. Think “Hello, Dolly.”