Sunday, June 24, 2012


I was so excited to get to make Austrian food. I’m of German heritage on my mother’s side, so some of the fare seemed somewhat reminiscent of food that my mother made for me when I was growing up.

The bread I chose was an Austrian pumpernickel. Now, I’ve been a fan of rye and pumpernickel since I was a kid. My husband, not so much. But I do give him credit in the fact that he even tried it. I should count my blessings as they come. The bread is dark, it’s hardy, it’s a meal in and of itself. It was a lot drier dough to work with. I had to add more water and another tablespoon of oil to it just to make it wet enough to form. It never did rise very much, which probably adds to its density. The recipe didn’t call for it to be scored, but I did anyway to add decoration. It turned out to be a very good bread. When I took the first bite while it was still warm, I could discern the molasses, the cocoa, and the caraway seeds. The crust was hard while the inside was soft and almost cake-like in places. I truly enjoyed it. 
Pumpernickel: a funny name for an awesome bread. 
I decided there may be nothing more Austrian than wiener schnitzel. I mean, it’s even in the name, sort of. (The word for Vienna in German in Wien.) True wiener schnitzel is made of veal, and there is a German meats and sausage place that I pass every day, so what better place to find it, right? Well, I did find it there: they have it in a pre-wrapped frozen package, ranging from one to 1 ½ pounds. So, I had him go get me two packages since my recipe called for two pounds. He came back and said that it was $63 and change!! I quickly decided that I should go for wiener schnitzel vom schwein, which is German for “veal is way too expensive, pork is cheaper.” Using the thin-cut pork cutlets, breading them and frying them turned out really good regardless of whether it's true wiener schnitzel or not.

In looking for a side dish, I came across kasnocken. You make spaetzel by making the dough and dripping it through a colander or sieve into simmering water.

Making spaetzel though a colander. It was so fun! 
Then you top it with carmelized onions and sprinkle with cheese. The recipe called for gruyère cheese, but I just couldn’t find it. How come I see it all the time until I actually want to buy it? So, I had to research some substitutions that basically said that gruyère is a type of Swiss cheese, so that’s what I used instead. I thought it was really good and was blown away when my kids shied away from it. I mean, it’s basically mac and cheese, for crying out loud! Malfunctioning taste buds are obviously a slow genetic drip from their father’s side.

The onions were the best part. Next time, I'll go with a cheese blend perhaps. 
And simply because there were no green vegetables on the menu, I quickly grabbed some fresh green beans and added some bacon and sea salt for flavor. You really can't go wrong, and you have to work really hard at messing it up. 

The final meal: wiener schnitzel, kasnocken, green bean, and pumpernickel bread.
After we ate the meal, I got started on the apple strudel.  I made my own dough and had to let it rest. Then I spread toasted bread crumbs on it and topped with a mixture of apples (I chose my favorites, Galas), lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon,  and raisins soaked in rum cream (mmm, it was hard to save some for the recipe. Seriously, it was the last four tablespoons). Then you fold the dough to make a pocket and bake it for an hour or more. I served it with artisan vanilla ice cream, and it was the perfect ending to this long day.

The grand finale: appel strudel with artisan vanilla ice cream.

The meal on a whole was really good. I’m definitely learning more patience. It may not have been the healthiest of meals by any means, but certainly one of the tastier ones. I’ve highly enjoyed this meal, and perhaps when I get a win fall, or one of my book projects gets off the ground and sells, I’ll go back and make this with veal. Until then, let them eat pork.

Up next: Azerbaijan


Saturday, June 23, 2012


Here’s what I’ve been waiting for all week. Vienna has long been considered the music capital of Europe. Musicians and their families all over Europe would sacrifice all they had to be able to study in Vienna. And it's no wonder it's the same city that gave is the famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Boys Choir. 

These names that are familiar to me from my days as a music major – part of the canon of composers we should know – have contributed to some of the greatest music in the history of the world.  Here’s a “TV Guide” run-down on each of them:

Alban Berg: member of the Second Viennese School, along with Schönberg and Berg. He’s really famous for his opera Wozzeck. I’m not a huge fan of contemporary music, but his Jugendlieder (Songs from Youth) are really nice if you’re a newcomer to contemporary music. It reminds me of Schubert in places. He died from complications of an insect bite that led to blood poisoning.

Anton Bruckner: famous for many of his symphonies. He actually had a symphony that was so harshly criticized that he called it Symphony No. 0, and it was never performed in his lifetime. Bruckner actually had a fascination with dead bodies and what happens after death, specifically asking to be embalmed. He’s buried under his favorite organ in the St. Florian monastery church.

Carl Czerny: wrote about a zillion piano exercises that weeds out the people who really love piano and those who develop a disdain for their piano teachers by having to do it over and over again, but this time correctly. He was one of the first composers to use the word “étude” [study] in the title. This is the "School of Velocity" studies. One day, I hope to be able to play this at this tempo. 

Joseph Haydn:  Often called “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet” and a close friend of both Mozart and Beethoven. His younger brother Michael was also a renowned composer and musician. Haydn had an incredible sense of humor and enjoyed practical jokes. He was short and not very attractive due to smallpox scars leaving his face pock-marked. This is the 4th movement of the "London Symphony" (No. 104). When I was playing French horn as part of a youth orchestra one year, we did this piece, and it's one of my favorites. 

Gustav Mahler: Known for his symphonies. Interesting story: he and some friends of his attended a really terrible concert of Bruckner’s Third Symphony, where people yelled insults at the composer and many people walked out. Mahler and his musician friends put together a piano version of the symphony and gave it to Bruckner. (Talk about kissing up. Wonder if it was better?) This is the finale to Mahler's 8th Symphony. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: I don’t think there’s a person alive on this planet who doesn’t know who Mozart is. When I was in high school, I saw the movie Amadeus for the first time and fell in love with it and his music. I’ve always been a fan of his style, his intricacies. In fact, I’m still working my way through his piano sonatas. Such great pieces, indeed. There’s a reason why his music is timeless and people sample his music into their pieces (like how the band Evanescence sampled “Lacrymosa from Requiem in D minor” into the song of the same name). This is one of my favorite Mozart pieces of all time, since I first heard it in high school: Symphony No. 40 in G minor with the one and only Leonard Bernstein conducting. 

Arnold Schönberg: (Also spelled Schoenberg). Also part of the Second Viennese School. The Nazis labeled his music as a “degenerate art.” Although… some of it I have a hard time enjoying. While he did come up with the twelve-tone technique of composing (where you use each of the twelve tones in an octave once before reusing the tone again), I’m just a huge fan of tonality. (Although I do have to say that I give props to Leonard Bernstein for pulling off twelve-tone technique with style in the song “Quiet” from Candide.)

Franz Schubert: Schubert is fascinating to me. He was only 31 when he died, but he churned out music like a machine. By the time he died, he wrote over “600 lieder, nine symphonies, liturgical music, operas, incidental music, and many chamber and solo piano pieces.” One of my favorite pieces he wrote that I sang for my senior voice recital was “Gretchen am Spinnrade.”

Johann Strauss Jr.: His father was also a really famous composer as well. Junior became known as the “Waltz King.” He’s really famous for his “The Blue Danube” waltz and “Tales from Vienna Woods” and his opera Die Fledermaus.  Both Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock did low-budget biographical films about Strauss.

Anton Webern: Also part of the Second Viennese School and had his music deemed "degenerate art."  He also utilized the twelve-tone technique but also a technique called total serialism. Serialism is roughly assigning a series of values of different aspects of music. I don’t quite get it, to be honest.  Here is where we get away from having a tonal center and more or less compose according to formula and math, rather than what was previously accepted from an aesthetic modus operandi. While interesting in its concept, I still prefer tonality.  

Hugo Wolf: Known for his songs (otherwise known as lieder). He was a child prodigy, but he suffered from depression that interrupted his work a lot, until he died of a mental break caused by syphilis. I have a lot of Wolf songs included in the book I used for German songs (“Fifty Selected Songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, and Strauss”). I also sang his song “Verborgenheit” for my senior voice recital. 

There weren’t a whole lot of pop/rock Austrian bands that are out there that are current, but I did come across one called She Says. There’s an acoustic album they have out that I really enjoyed. There were several that were popular in the 1980s, like Falco, famous for the song  “Rock Me Amadeus.”

Yodeling got its start in the Alps as well. It comes from the German word jodeln, which basically means to say the word jo (or yo in English). Yodeling is basically moving the voice from a mid- to low- register to a high register. Yodeling extended to country and western music in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, starting with Jimmie Rogers.

When it comes to dance, there are three main types you’ll find: ländler, waltz, and schuhplattler. Ländler is a dance in 3/4 time for couples and includes a lot of stomping and hopping. Several Austrian classical composers have written ländlers. If you watch The Sound of Music, you can see Maria and Captain von Trapp dancing a ländler; however, it’s not a true dance, there has been a lot of it that has been changed and choreographed.

The waltz is another dance that is in 3/4 time and is related to the ländler.  The couples dance closer together and generally will dance in a gliding motion across the floor. Many composers have written waltzes and it’s considered part of the canon of ballroom dance styles.

The schuhplattler is a folk dance that evolved from the ländler. It was actually used as a courtship dance, where men would dance to show off for the eligible females.

There are other types of less popular dances or offshoots and variations from the dances lists above. Many of these dances and the music associated with them are found in classical music as well as being performed by amateur musicians and dancers.

Wikipedia: “List of Austrians” “Alban Berg” “Anton Bruckner” “Carl Czerny” “Joseph Haydn” “Gustav Mahler” “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” “Arnold Schönberg” “Franz Schubert” “Johann Strauss Jr” “Anton Webern” “Hugo Wolf” “Austrian folk dances” “Ländler” “Waltz” “Schuhplattler” 

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Art is Austria runs deep, mostly because it lies in the heart of art-inspired Europe. I have an appreciation for art, but I can’t name names when it comes to classical art. Some genres where Austrians excelled are in paintings and architecture. Austrian art more or less went through its own eras of art history yet also followed what was happening elsewhere in Europe.

One artist I came across is Gustav Klimt. Although he never married and supposedly lived with his mom, it was rumored that he often had affairs with the models he painted and even may have fathered children with some of them. His favorite subject to portray was women – in all aspects of their lives, from childhood through pregnancy and motherhood to old age. One of his most famous paintings is called “The Kiss.” But the one I really enjoy that touched my heart is one called “Mother and Child.”

One of Klimt’s friends was fellow artist Egon Schiele. He also had some issues with “relationships” with young girls (in fact, it actually got him a short stint in prison). His style looks mostly like sketches and watercolor, and he tends to either paint himself or paint nudes in provocative situations, or both.

Oskar Kokoschka was one another painter around the same time, but his issues lie in the fact that he would often portray violence, which got him kicked out of art school. He also made a name for himself in the literature field as well. I like his style of painting: he uses a lot of colors. And while the edges are not defined – almost in an early Impressionist style – he creates the illusion of definition with the colors he uses, contrasting light and dark.

Adolf Hitler (who was born in Austria and lived there until he was seven years old) was actually an artist as well.  A friend of mine sent me an e-mail years ago that had some of his art work in it, a lot of landscapes and buildings and such. And to be honest, I really like his artwork. Some of them are kind of peaceful. It seems so anathema from someone who had such skewed views of the world.

Architecture in Austria is a contrast between modern buildings of glass and steel to ancient castles of stones and mortar. Many of Austria’s cities hold onto its classic Baroque-style buildings from the past, yet have some of the leading architectural styles of the world nearby.

One of Austria’s more famous writers is Franz Kafka. I have one of his works The Metamorphosis on my massive Master Reading List. (One day, I’ll get to it I swear. I’m still working my way through Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh right now.) The attributed term “Kafkaesque” is a term that loosely means anything that is disorienting, senseless, highly complex, and almost schizophrenic. That isn’t too far from the reality: certain sources and psychoanalysts claim that Kafka had low-level schizophrenic disorders and some even suggested he had some sort of anorexia disorder.  As the old saying goes, “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.”

One of my favorite books I read growing up was the Madeline books, written by Austrian Ludwig Bemelmans. Now I want to go find the books again. (I’m thinking a trip to Half Price Books is in store for this weekend.)

Although not necessarily considered literature, there were many Austrian who were writers in their field. Sigmund Freud is one of the most famous psychoanalysts of all time, especially in the field of dream interpretation among other studies. I have his Interpretations of Dreams on my list as well AND on my bookshelf waiting for me. Hans Asperger is another doctor who studied autism and the namesake of Asperger’s Syndrome. Gregor Mendel is thought to be the father of modern genetics, discovering breakthroughs in inheritance and traits in the pea plant. Not really a writer, but rather written about, the father of the von Trapp family (Baron von Trapp), made famous from The Sound of Music, was originally from Austria. There are many other inventors, engineers, and highly educated people in all fields that have written extensively in their fields.

Up next: Music and Dance

Wikipedia: “Franz Kafka” “Adolf Hitler” “List of Austrians”

Monday, June 18, 2012


Austria, a country where the majority of the people currently is or identify themselves as Roman Catholics, does have a majority of the same kinds of holidays that other primarily Christian countries celebrate. There are very few national holidays, however.

New Years Day. January 1. Also called Sylvesterabend, after St. Sylvester. Traditionally, many Austrians enjoy a punch made of cinnamon, sugar, and red wine -- all my favorites! Other people will burn mortars in order to keep evil spirits away, a tradition you'll find in many cultures worldwide. Eating a dinner of suckling pig is considered to bring good luck, as well as green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a four-leaf clover. People will also sing New Years carols on New Year's morning. It also marks the beginning of the carnival of Fasching, which goes on until Lent. That's a lot of partying. Some people will also pour molten lead into a bucket of water and make predictions based on the shapes. Some people can find good (or bad) luck anywhere, I suppose.

Epiphany. January 6. Epiphany falls twelve days after Christmas. It marks when the three wise men visited Jesus, bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Easter Sunday. Varies. The night before Easter, some people light fires and gather around it to sing songs and dance around it. Easter morning begins with a fabulous Easter brunch to celebrate the end of fasting. The kids will search for Easter eggs and they also follow the Easter bunny myth as well. They will make two different kinds of eggs, though. One kind is decorated but with the intention of being able to eat later. The other kind is hollowed out and decorated with paints and glitter, using ferns and flowers as stencils and is attached to ferns as decorations.

Easter Monday. Varies. This is mostly for a day of rest and to spend with family. I’m sure many people will take the opportunity to spend it outside, weather permitting of course. Not all countries have Easter Monday off, but Austria is one that does.

Labor Day/May Day. May 1. Labor Day is celebrated in similar fashions to other countries, with parades sponsored by various political and labor groups and organizations. It’s also the same day as May Day, the traditional first day of spring and is related to Walpurgis Night.

 Ascension Day. Varies (39 days after Easter). It’s a day for Christians to celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. This is always on a Thursday, so people will often enjoy a long weekend because of it. If you do work on Friday, it’s often a quieter day of work than usual. There are special services at area churches for those who attend.

Whit Sunday. Varies. It’s a day regarding the decent of the Holy Ghost to the disciples of Jesus, according to Christian traditions. It’s also to mark the beginning of the Pentecostal season in the church. Many people will spend the day with family doing something together, such as picnicking or doing something outside.

Corpus Christ. Varies (60 days after Easter). A holiday to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, or communion. Many Christians attend special services in order to be served communion, which is the belief by taking wine and bread, they are receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Assumption of Mary. August 15. It’s the festival in honor of Mary’s ascent into heaven following her death. Spectacularly decorated festivals and parades followed by fireworks will take place on this day, and vary from country to country.

Austrian National Day (day of neutrality). October 26. Their holiday is a little different than other national holidays, where many would celebrate independence from another country or the signing of a constitution. This one is celebrating the fact that Austria has declared themselves neutral from all international conflict: a feat that I highly commend. Sometimes I wish we were neutral. Many people will hang flags and attend parades.

All Saints Day. November 1. It’s a celebration of all the saints, especially those who have no other holidays, sort of a catch-all holidays for saints. Many people will visit the gravesites of loved ones and light candles in their memory.

Feast of Immaculate Conception. December 8. It celebrates the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. Traditionally, it’s celebrated on December 8, nine months before Mary’s birthday on September 8. I don’t see how nine months before Mary’s birthday should mark the immaculate conception, but ok. (Shouldn’t it be nine months before Jesus’ birthday?) This also marks the first day shops can begin the Christmas shopping season. That wouldn’t go over well in the US, where I’ve seen Christmas stuff out at Halloween. (cough, cough, corporate greed, cough, cough)

Christmas Day. December 25. People wait to decorate for Christmas on Christmas Eve by putting up their tree then. None of this putting it up weeks in advance. Caroling is popular and you can hear caroling groups all over during this time. Kids open presents left by Santa Claus. The traditional Christmas meal is carp or sausages. Just invite me to dinner, please. I’ll even forego the gifts, the food is enough.

St. Stephen's Day. December 26. It’s a day to commemorate St. Stephen, the first martyr according to Christians. It’s also related to Boxing Day, which is celebrated in many countries.

Wikipedia: "Public holidays in Austria" “Feast of Immaculate Conception” “St. Stephens Day”


Saturday, June 16, 2012


As a musician and music theory enthusiast, Austria for me represents one of the Meccas of the music world. Home of some of the world’s most talented (genius, if you will) composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and Strauss, Vienna itself has become a center for serious musicians to learn their craft. Even German-born Beethoven spent many years in Vienna. Thousands of students traveled with the last of their family’s money to try for the chance to learn with best.

This landlocked country located in the heart of the Alps surrounds itself with Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the tiny country of Liechtenstein.  Slightly smaller than the US state of Maine, it does boast about 8.2 million people there (about the same as the entire population of New York City). The renowned Danube River is a major river that runs through Austria and Vienna. In fact, you might know a little piece by Johann Strauss II called “The Blue Danube.”

Like their neighbor Germany, Austrians speak German, making it only one of six countries whose official and working language is German (eleven other countries list German as a national or minority language spoken). Along certain border states in Austria, you’ll find other languages spoken as well.

More than a quarter of Austria’s population resides in the capital city of Vienna and its surrounding areas. It’s sometimes referred to as the “City of Dreams” in homage to one of its more famous residents, Dr. Sigmund Freud, whose dream analyses was an integral part of his research and was what put him on the map, so to speak.

Vienna and Austria as a whole enjoys a very high quality of life, and that’s evident through a number of independent studies. Low maternal death rate, low infant mortality, fairly high expenditure on health care, access to doctors, generally low unemployment, and low percentage of obesity among adults (at 11%, compared with almost 34% in the US!) are all factors that help determine that status.

Austria’s culture seems to be mainly influenced by two cultures: its proximity to German culture and its historical ties with Hungarian culture, among others. As we explore the culture and cuisine of Austria, you’ll be able to pick out the bits of history and influences that have been retained as if it were poured through a colander. So, grab some coffee (and one for me: I like mine with soy milk and one sugar, please) and read on.

Up next: Holidays and Celebrations

CIA Factbook: Austria
Wikipedia: “Austria” “Vienna” “Danube River” “The Blue Danube”

Friday, June 15, 2012


Word of mouth is an awesome tool, and so is a Google search. But in my opinion as a writer, promoting your own work is one of the hardest things for me to do. It’s almost schizophrenic: I like what I write, but there are times I’m afraid to put it out there for people, afraid they will think it’s garbage writing. The editor part of me does have to step in and mitigate the internal battle and reassure everyone that we did a good job. It’s the same with my music.

And then when opportunities arise, the agent in me tells me I better take it. Earlier this week, I was reading through my Twitterfeed and saw a post from Huffington Post Women asking them to send a picture of what fun things you did this weekend. Well, I posted the picture of the final meal we did for the Australian food, with a link to the blog, of course.  And I got an e-mail back saying that they included it in their slide show! It’s slide 42 of 44, I think. Something I did was mentioned on a website that I have so much respect for, and I feel so proud of myself, it's ethereal. Check it out here:

The next day, I got a write-up on The Armenian Kitchen’s website (posted on 06/13/2012) about my posts of Armenian culture and food. All of my recipes came from their website, and after I was finished doing Armenia, I sent them an e-mail saying how much I enjoyed their site. So, she wrote about this blog and how it got started. I am still so flattered.

Social media and the Internet can be a wonderful thing. It certainly allows us to share ideas and cultures and lets us connect with people all over the world. When you learn more about other places and people, you begin to understand them. And when you understand them, you greatly lower your chances at unsubstantiated hate and discrimination. These are the things that make our worlds smaller. (This should be my mission statement.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012


I only had to buy a few ingredients that I had never bought before for this meal. A lot of the cuisine in Australia is derived from British and Irish fare, with a touch of Asian mixed in there as well. And while meat pies are probably considered something of a national dish, I decided to go with a roast and a couple of sides.

Bread dough with a cross scored in it. But it could also be a T, an intersection, or the Japanese/Chinese symbol for 10. 

The bread I made for this is an Australian damper bread.  It was especially made out in the bush and used very few ingredients. Originally, the bread was made by placing it directly on the coals of a fire. But seeing how I was not creating a bon fire or trying to use a grill, I made it in the oven.  This bread was drier than others, but had a nice hard crust. I may have used too much flour because the crumb on the inside of it was dull. It also seemed like it was in layers as well. But it tasted fine. Definitely a dipping kind of bread.

Putting it on that plate made me realize I fail at making circles. 

The meat called for a rib eye boneless cut, and I’m not too keen on my cuts of meat. I couldn’t find anything that said rib-eye, so I started going for the “best three out of four” game. What I bought had the word “beef”, “eye”, and “boneless” in it, so I bought it. And it was good. After it was thawed, you pierced the side of it and place slivers of garlic inside. Then you rub it with an olive oil-salt-pepper-rosemary rub on top. I’ve found that since it’s a thicker cut of meat, it called to brown it first in a skillet before putting it in the oven.

Topped with rosemary, that thing my husband refers to as "sticks." But he ate it, and he liked it. 

While it was baking, I made the red wine gravy. Ok, technically, I made a shiraz gravy.  I had never really made gravy before, so I was a little nervous, but it turned out really good.  Very subtle on the wine notes, and not too thin or thick. I’m pretty proud of myself on that note. It’s rekindling my dream of being a saucier.

To accompany all of this, I thought we needed something green. I found a recipe for mixed mushroom and arugula salad with shaved parmesan. Well, once again, I tried for the best two out of three. I only went with two mushrooms: oyster mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, sautéed together. I couldn't find the arugula at the store I was at, so I went with baby spinach and dandelion greens (which I’m glad I went for – the slight bitterness of the dandelion greens complemented the balsamic vinaigrette that topped the mushrooms). And I used grated parmesan instead of buying a block and shaving it. I thought it was better my way. (As it usually is, of course.)

I was a little leery serving dandelion greens. I'm hoping they don't start trying to graze the lawn now. 
 According to the recipe for the beef roast, it told me that I can’t make the roast without making the Yorkshire pudding. (And really, it had nothing to do with pudding as we know it in the US. But definitely yummy nonetheless.) I almost liked it better than the bread. It’s basically flour, eggs, and milk and baked on top of some heated oil that’s been placed in a muffin pan. It’s light, unless you get too much oil in it like a few of mine did. Yorkshire puddings have their origin in England but was one of those foods that were taken with them when they colonized Australia.

The finished product! Yeah! I swear it looks like it came from a restaurant. Of course it did: Chez Adams.

And of course I can’t complete the meal without mentioning the wine. Australia has an extensive wine industry. I bought two different ones: Black Swan’s Reisling and Black Opal’s Shiraz. I’ve been a fan of shiraz for many years, and usually buy Yellow Tail’s. I was fairly happy with Black Opal’s, and they have a really cool label on the bottle, I thought.  I’ve not tried a Reisling yet before this, but it’s light with citrus and pear hints in it. I’d definitely do it again.

Awesome, part 1. 
Awesome, part 2.

Overall, the whole meal was amazing. It was hearty, succulent, almost downhome-almost restaurant quality. I think it would fall under the “this is my childhood” kind of meal, or even the “no, let’s cook in for your birthday” kind of meal. Either way, it’s a meal to create memories and to create impressions. 

Up next: Austria



One of the most iconic instruments from Australia is from the Aborigines: the didgeridoo. The word itself is onomatopeic as we know it, but in the native languages, there are at least 45 different words to describe the instrument – each tribe pretty much has its own word.

It’s technically an aerophone, meaning one that’s played with the lips. It’s made of wood, usually from a eucalyptus or native bamboo where there is obvious termite damage to it. They’re usually cut to be about four feet long, give or take some, and then painted with meaningful symbols to that particular tribe or person.  Here is an example of how they find the trees and what it sounds like (it’s about halfway through, pay no attention to the fact that it looks like it was recorded from a VHS).

But then we get to today’s music. And who knew it was full of a lot of my favorites. Let’s start with one of the famous ones I remember from VH1's Pop-Up Videos: Men At Work’s “Down Under.” 

And then there are some of the other groups that were famous in the 1970s and 1980s:  Bee Gees, Air Supply, AC/DC, INXS, Severed Heads. AC/DC would have to be one of my favorites; their songs remain timeless in my book.

Severed Heads branched out from the various rock genres and pushes toward the alternative electronica scene, even though they never really landed on a specific genre. This one sounds a lot like house music or trance in places. 

Then you get to my high school and college years in the 1990s and early 2000s: Savage Garden, Silverchair, Kylie Minogue (even though she spans several decades). I had no idea any of these musicians were Australian. If funny how listening to these albums will instantly bring me back to certain times in my life.

And of course, today some of my favorites include The Vines and Wolfmother, both of whom I’ve listened to for years, without knowing they were Australian. The Vine's song "Ride" was used in a Nissan commercial several years ago, which is when I first heard of them. 

I’ve got two albums by Wolfmother, a band I love for its quasi-70s psychedelic rock sound. Definitely high in cool points. Both of these bands have had songs that have appeared in commercials, TV shows, and movies. My Australia playlist on Spotify is definitely one of my more awesome playlists.

I did find some artists I found that I didn’t previously know.  One was a house DJ called Dirty South.  My husband and I are huge house fans, and I found one of his remix CDs on iTunes for $5.99, so I bought it. There were 28 songs on it, and 2 tracks were over a hour long! I’m so happy with it; I can’t wait to play it loud in the car.

Another artist I found was rapper Bliss N Eso. I listened to his album “Running on Air,” and there are several tracks that remind me of one of my favorite rappers Atmosphere. I almost bought it off of iTunes for $9.99, but I decided to just keep it on Spotify instead. 

Dance in Australia is something of a vast topic. There is certainly Aboriginal dance, but then the Europeans who arrived brought their own dances as well, mostly from England, Ireland, and Scotland.  This came to be known as bush dance. From the non-dancer, it looks really similar to folk dancing or square dancing in the US. But if you think about it, it is a tradition that was stemmed from the Scots-Irish and English traditions, so it's understandable that it would appear very similar (with subtle differences of course) in the areas where they traveled to. 

Aboriginal dance is thought to be an extension of Dreamtime, basically their version of creation stories and the beginnings of spirituality. Most of the dances have a purpose, mostly to tell a story. Their bodies are painted, and the locations of these dances are treated as sacred ground. Many times, they will enact an animal that is important to the area or part of a story. Sometimes they will also perform what’s called a corroboree, where they perform these dances as part of a performance in front of other people.

Today there are a number of professional dance schools and dance companies throughout Australia. Bush dance is viewed as part of the canon of traditional dance; in fact, it’s even included in dance competitions. Modern dance as well as other world dances are also popular in Australia. 

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Wikipedia: "Music of Australia" "Didgerigoo" "Dreamtime" "Dance of Australia"