The Gasoline Prize

A little while back, I offered a modest prize — a copy of Gregory Corso’s Gasoline (1958), which has marrying the pig’s daughter in it — to the first person to identify the composer of a piece of Mystery Music.

It wouldn’t have been a lot of help if I’d told you that the name of the piece was “Spanish Dance #2”. On Facebook, Michael Palmer admitted that he’d listened to the recording but hadn’t tried to guess the composer, since (he said droll-ly) his acquaintance with classical music pretty much ends with Gottschalk. I replied:

Most people would probably guess Albeniz (1860-1909) or Granados (1867-1916), which means you’re excused, since Gottschalk’s dates are 1829-1869.

In fact, very few people seem to have listened to Spanish Dance #2 (well, this blog doesn’t have all that many readers, and many of them aren’t musically inclined; this is, after all, a blog mostly about language, though recently I’ve been inclined to stray), and no one even took a shot. So the Gasoline Prize goes, for the moment, unclaimed.

Ok, it was a trick question. I am myself the composer of Spanish Dance #2 (and its predecessor, the predictably-titled Spanish Dance #1, from my 1956 recital). Yes, it’s derivative and flashy, musically not at all that interesting, except perhaps as the work of a 15-year-old whose name isn’t Wolfgang Amadeus.

It’s hard for me to believe that I once did such things. I’ve unearthed pages of compositions from my mid-teens, most of them written hastily in pencil, but the final drafts of the two Spanish dances are carefully copied out in pen. (Hard to believe I was so neat then.) My hands are incapable of playing them any more, and my brain struggles to hear them from reading what’s on the page.

But I still have that copy of Gasoline, and I’ve upped the reward with a CD of some charming Villa Lobos piano music played by Sonia Rubinsky (“Guia Prático”, Albums 10 and 11, “Suite Infantil”, Nos. 1 and 2). New, easier, contest:

For the most satisfying As/tor Bar (as in my first “splitting up” posting) example: a within-word split within a poetic line (or in speech) that leads the hearer momentarily astray, especially to comic effect. (Post entries here.)

Please: no within-word splits that span two poetic lines. That’s “split rhyme”; I’m somewhat overburdened with examples (comic and otherwise) of it; and I’m soon going to post about the phenomenon.

While you’re ruminating and recollecting, here’s the beginning and the end of Gregory Corso’s “The Last Warmth of Arnold”:

Arnold, warm with God,
Hides beneath the porch
remembering the time of escape, imprisoned in Vermont,
shoveling snow. Arnold was from somewhere else,
where it was warm; where he wore suede shoes
and played ping-pong.
Arnold knew the Koran.
And he knew to sing:

Young Julien Sorel
Knew his Latin well
And was wise as he
Was beautiful
Until his head fell.

Arnold, weak and dying, stole pennies from the library,
but he also read about Paderewski.

He used to walk along South Street
wondering about the various kinds of glue.
And it was about airplane glue he was thinking
when he fell and died beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

Ah, again Paderewski.

4 Responses to “The Gasoline Prize”

  1. irrationalpoint Says:


  2. Sam Says:

    Pretty hard contest; all I have available are ineligible entries.

    Miss Suzy verses, for example, all end with a comic or bawdy split or reinterpretation but across poetic lines –

    Behind the fridgerator / there was a piece of glass / Miss Suzy sat upon it / and cut her little / Ask me no more questions

    (from my childhood). Metrically I’m not sure which line “Ask” belongs to.

    Another ineligible entry, from another Foremen song Everyman (for himself):

    When you’re a Black, Chicano, Native-American, Jewish lesbian folk singer
    And this morning when you woke up you hit your head on the steering wheel
    You’re shoulder deep in shit
    And you just wanna quit
    I know how you [pause, then spoken quickly] can get a handgun without the usual background check

    Where the comedic tension comes because the rhyme that’s set up is wheel/feel, which would lead to “I know how you feel”, which is impossible for this song’s voice.

  3. Sam Says:

    I see that Debby mentioned the Miss Susie song in a comment on the other thread; there’s a wikipedia entry for it here – (the current version has been stripped of lyrics, so this is a link to an older version).

    Another one from a children’s song (Mary Had a Little Lamb / The Battle Cry of Freedom )

    Mary had a little lamb / she also had a duck / she put them on the window / to see if they would f….all off

    Not on a syllable boundary.

  4. And the winner… « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the winner… By arnold zwicky (the winner of the Gasoline Prize, that is) is… Sam, for two entries that are not quite what I asked for: they’re not […]

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