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The Late Movies: Leslie Hall, Rap Queen of Iowa

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Leslie Hall is what Wikipedia describes as "an American satirical rap artist and front-woman for the band Leslie and the Ly's and the operator of what is best described as a 'gem sweater museum.'" I asked around and was told by THREE friends, "Oh yeah, Leslie's kind of famous." She's been on Yo Gabba Gabba!! Looking at her videos, I'm stunned that we haven't given her the Late Movies treatment yet. So strap yourselves in, stuff's about to get awesome.

"Tight Pants / Body Rolls"

This video is remarkable for at least three reasons: the surprisingly elaborate green-screen work, the impressive costumes, and an actually catchy song. Leslie describes the song as follows (I've reproduced the typos and punctuation verbatim -- it's all part of the awesomeness):

Watch out.. this song is about forest people who dance in tight clothes. be sure to stick around for about 2:18 those are slow motion body rolls. study those abs.. i'm isolating and really getting good for live show entertainment i plan to bring it. I'd like to comment on my skin tone. That is Iowa see-through skin. while indoors watching tv and crafting you tend to form a shade of pink - white- then pale - then followed by a clearness with blue veins running every which way. The costome seen in this video is my mom's KILL BILL insperationed. Because its been playing on tv latley. she had to get a colonoscapy and so she watched them and relized maybe I had the power to kill bill. ( in dance form of course).

Apparently you can buy the song from iTunes or on CD.

"Gravel In My Shoe - BACK 2 BACK PALZ"

Not a rap, but kind of wonderful. The lines delivered by the "Ly's" are truly impressive. Example: "I'm lookin' online and I'll see what I find. And I hope he's better than you because you make me miserable."

"How We Go Out Version 2"

Sort of like an alternate-universe version of Salt 'N Pepa, in which they're from Ames, Iowa. Sample lyrics: "On the way to the club we pass a Dairy Queen / You stop cause it you know it means so much to me / We take the back seats out of your mini van / Now we roll like a hummer or a full size sedan."

"Zombie Killer Revisited" (ft. Elvira)

With guest vocals from Elvira, and cameos in the video from Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank, from the documentary American Movie.

"Craft Talk"

For the craft people in the house.

"Razzle Dazzle Dancey Dance" (Yo Gabba Gabba)

Leslie teaches us a dancey dance involving "glitter hands." Which in my day were called "jazz hands." But in my day, we didn't have half as much razzle nor dazzle.

Lots More Videos

Check out her YouTube channel. Warning: you might be at it all day.

Her Website

You owe it to yourself to check out the official website for the band as well as Leslie Hall's other official website, which feature such gems as Weddings in Iowa By Leslie, a series of wedding packages. Don't think, just click. Trust me.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?
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They both have narrative arcs set to song, so how are musicals different from operas?

For non-theater types, the word “musical” conjures up images of stylized Broadway performances—replete with high-kicks and punchy songs interspersed with dialogue—while operas are viewed as a musical's more melodramatic, highbrow cousin. That said, The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini argues that these loose categorizations don't get to the heart of the matter. For example, for every Kinky Boots, there’s a work like Les Misérables—a somber, sung-through show that elicits more audience tears than laughs. Meanwhile, operas can contain dancing and/or conversation, too, and they range in quality from lowbrow to highbrow to straight-up middlebrow.

According to Tommasini, the real distinguishing detail between a musical and an opera is that “in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.” While listening to an opera, it typically doesn’t matter what language it’s sung in, so long as you know the basic plot—but in musical theater, the nuance comes from the lyrics.

When it comes down to it, Tommasini’s explanation clarifies why opera stars often sing in a different style than Broadway performers do, why operas and musicals tend to have their trademark subject matters, and why musical composition and orchestration differ between the two disciplines.

That said, we live in a hybrid-crazy world in which we can order Chinese-Indian food, purchase combination jeans/leggings, and, yes, watch a Broadway musical—like 2010's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—that’s billed as “rock opera.” At the end of the day, the lack of hard, fast lines between opera and musical theater can lead composers from both camps to borrow from the other, thus blurring the line even further.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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History
Lost Gustav Holst Music Found in a New Zealand Symphony Archive
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English composer Gustav Holst became famous for his epic seven-piece suite "The Planets," but not all of his works were larger-than-life. Take "Folk Songs from Somerset," a collection of folk tunes composed by Holst in 1906 and largely forgotten in the decades since. Now, more than a century later, the music is finally attracting attention. As Atlas Obscura reports, manuscripts of the songs were rediscovered among a lost collection of sheet music handwritten by the musician.

The Holst originals were uncovered from the archives of a New Zealand symphony during a routine cleaning a few years ago. While throwing away old photocopies and other junk, the music director and the librarian of the Bay of Plenty (BOP) Symphonia came across two pieces of music by Holst. The scores were penned in the composer’s handwriting and labeled with his former address. Realizing the potential importance of their discovery, they stored the documents in a safe place, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to verify that the manuscripts were authentic.

For more than a century, the Holst works were thought to be lost for good. "These manuscripts are a remarkable find, particularly the ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ which don’t exist elsewhere in this form," Colin Matthews of London's Holst Foundation said in a statement from the symphony.

How, exactly, the documents ended up in New Zealand remains a mystery. The BOP Symphonia suspects that the sheets were brought there by Stanley Farnsworth, a flutist who performed with an early version of the symphony in the 1960s. “We have clues that suggest the scores were used by Farnsworth,” orchestra member Bronya Dean said, “but we have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst.”

The symphony plans to mark the discovery with a live show, including what will likely be the first performance of "Folk Songs from Somerset" in 100 years. Beyond that, BOP is considering finding a place for the artifacts in Holst’s home in England.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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