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.

JW Pepper

Episode # 1925

6/22      Two Cheers  A musical but jaundiced view of American life and American democracy. Freedom may be precious but it can also get you in a pickle. You may stop long to celebrate the land and the nation, but mostly you keep on the move, preferably on the off-beat.

Episode # 1924

6/15      One Damn Thing  Of course most songs are about love, but romance in today’s songs is generally incidental. These are mostly list songs—tributes to a lyricist’s inventiveness when it comes to laying out a catalogue of our endlessly messy lives.

Episode #1923

6/8       An Elegiac Strain  More often than not, popular songs trade in youthfulness and hope. But in these songs, you may also detect something different—an elegaic strain that carries you emotionally farther and deeper than mere happiness. The melancholy of loss deepens. We may depart but we always remember, especially in song.

Wikimedia Commons

Episode 1922

6/1       Telling Stories  Every good song is dramatic. Right now, there’s a reason for this person to be singing these words. When songs tell stories, they tie themselves to an age-old tradition of narrative—told before they were written, chanted and sung before there was writing. Even in Tin Pan Alley and on Broadway, the tradition continued. Confession’s good for the soul—and the love affair.

Episode #1921

5/25      The Place and the Person During the years when more and more young adults were leaving home for big cities, new songs engaged them with nostalgic remembrances of the hometown and the loved one left behind. One way to do it was to join the place and the person until they became one in the imagination.


Episode #1920

5/18      That’s Who-oo Song lyricists love open vowels, like oooh. The sound let singers hold notes easily, especially in the days before microphones, and oooh especially can take on a range of suggested meanings. From sadness to delight, pain to pleasure, relaxation to eroticism. It’s amazing how much you can say with so little.

Past Perfect - Vintage Music

Episode #1919

5/11      Conditional Love In something as brief but focused as a song lyric, a word as small as “if” can turn out to be very large. Despite all the assumptions about perfect romance, some of the best songs prefer a point of view that’s more ambiguous, more tentative. A word like “if” steps back from certainty and engages the complexity that any true love requires.

Local Current Blog - The Current

Episode # 1918

5/4       Looking for the Boy Lyricists usually write songs so both men and women can sing them. Since most of the writers are men, they also write a lot of songs about women—from the man’s point of view. But these songs are what’s left—songs where women go looking for a man.


Episode #1917

4/27      In Time and Place Time and Place are love songs’ essential anchor. They connect incident to emotion, experience to how we feel about it. You can sing about paradise and eternity all you want. Even so, you can float only so far, rise only so high, before the connection frays.


Episode # 1916

4/20      Billy Rose, Occasional Songwriter Sometimes Billy Rose wrote every word in a lyric. Sometimes he added or changed a single word. Sometimes he wrote nothing but threw out ideas, cajoled, and screamed until his-co-lyricist finished a song. Then he’d head for a music publisher and return with a better deal than his collaborators could have imagined. Through it all, one way or another, Billy Rose created hits and standards.