Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Rialto Ripples, Oriental-style
When Ernie Kovacs, the mad genius of early TV, needed a theme song for his mad genius show, somebody did an arrangement of Gershwin's catchy piano piece Riato Ripples Rag (see last video), and retitled it Oriental Blues. Except for the goofy sound effects, the pieces are pretty much identical, so I don't know how they ever got away with it.
Everyone knows Gershwin wrote the original, but why was the Kovacs version called Oriental? Well! Out of some madness, I decided to see what the name Levant means "in English". It seemed sort-of French and I wondered what arcane meanings might pop up.
As it turned out, there were more than I could ever include, and they were getting stranger and stranger. But one of the meanings that kept popping up was "of the Orient," or. . . Oriental.
Levant was still around and fairly vigorous in the 1950s, when Kovacs reigned supreme. He was wasting himself on stupid quiz shows and making $45.50 a week, but surely he must have been aware of Kovacs and his insane brand of humor. Did someone know and exploit the mystical connection between Levant and Oriental and Gershwin? Maybe it was just a coincidence, but there is nothing even vaguely oriental about this piece.
Then again, is there a Rialto, and why does it ripple? Am I just hallucinating again?