Music for Dishwashing

Copyright © by Fred Flaxman, 1997.

I'm going to write today about CDs which will help turn the dishwashing chore into a well, almost a pleasure. But, first, a few words in defense of this much-maligned household task.

Dishwashing may not be as glamorous as cooking, as much fun as sex, as much exercise as jogging or as relaxing as a whirlpool bath, but it does have its advantages.

Like sex, dishwashing is most enjoyable when it's not performed routinely three times a day, and is both dirty and clean, depending on how you look at it.

Like jogging, it keeps you on your feet and facilitates creative daydreaming. But unlike running, you can do it comfortably no matter what the weather is like outside. And there is much less chance of keeling over with a heart attack. In fact, dishwashing never killed anyone, even though most people avoid it like the plague.

Like whirlpool baths, dishwashing permits you to play with hot water and soapy suds. And there is no law against doing it in the nude, although I'll admit it's not common practice, and I wouldn't tell my neighbors, if I were you.

Dishwashing helps instill the democratic values of our society. It promotes the equality of men and women. And it is particularly effective at taking high-ranking, overly-paid, over-bearing, over-confident corporate executives and reducing them to humble household hired hands and bumbling, glass-breaking blockheads.

Dishwashing - like reading, writing, speaking and composing great music - separates human beings from the lower forms of life. There is some question as to whether certain animals speak, but none have ever been found who wash dishes.

For those who spend their days doing mental work in offices, dishwashing supplies a righteously routine, thoughtless activity that gives the brain a badly-needed after-dinner rest. It's Western Civilization's equivalent of contemplating your navel or repeating your mantra.

Even after all these years of women in the work force, most wives who bring home the bacon still cook it. Dishwashing is easier than cooking, and yet many wives who do all the meal preparation will accept after-dinner clean-up by their husbands as "doing their share" of the household chores.

Dishwashing would probably be even easier if it weren't for dishwashing machines. These force you to rinse the dishes thoroughly before you put them in, so what sticks to the plates won't get permanently baked in by the intense heat of the dry cycle. They don't seem to work for pots and pans, grill tops or woks, which are the only cooking utensils which are tough to clean anyway.

You also have to eliminate anything made with wood which can crack, thin plastics which might melt, narrow pieces which can fall through the basket and jam the motor, things that are too big to fit, and cups that hold water in their concave bottoms when they are turned upside down. That excludes virtually everything. And then you have to spend too much time trying to figure out how to pack what's left into one load, so as not to waste soap, water and electricity.

Then, of course, it is nearly impossible to listen to music with the dishwasher going. Whatever you put on becomes a Concerto for Dishwasher and Orchestra. So I suggest that you play CDs only when you are washing everything that won't go in the blasted machine and, then again, when you are drying and putting the dishes away.

What kind of music goes best with dishwashing? For me it's compositions which are light, happy and loud.

I asked my friends on the Internet's Moderated Classsical Music List what they would select, and Fanfare magazine music critic Ray Tuttle suggested: Handel's Water Music, Kurt Weil's Mack the Knife from "The Threepenny Opera," Mozart's Eine Kleine Potsmusik, and anything by Philip Glass recorded in the Hollywood Bowl.

But seriously, as Gilbert & Sullivan would put it, "I've got a little list:"

* Gilbert & Sullivan: excerpts from The Mikado with the English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Peter Robinson (Musical Heritage Society MHS 512115Y) and/or Overtures with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Alexander Faris (Nimbus 8360-35066-2).

* Rossini: Overtures with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yoel Levi (Telarc CD-80334) or with Riccardo Chailly leading the National Philharmonic Orchestra (London 400 049).

* Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture, Capriccio Italien and the Cossack Dance from "Mazeppa," all conveniently located on one CD with Erich Kunzel conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (Telarc CD-80041).

* Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol and Russian Easter Overture, combined with Borodin's Polovtsian Dances from "Prince Igor," with Antal Dorati and the London Symphony Orchestra (Mercury Living Presence 434308-2).

* Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks with Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra (CBS MK 35826) and the suite from Der Rosenkavalier with Antal Dorati and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (London 411 893-2).

* Alfvén: Midsommarvaka, Swedish Rhapsody No. 1 with the Stockholm Philharmonic conducted by Neeme Järvi (BIS CD-385).

* Delibes: Coppelia in a new recording with Kent Nagano conducting the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon (Erato D 200866). As this is a 2-CD set of the complete ballet, you could use this after a big dinner party and still finish the dishes before the music ends.

* Khachaturian: Masquerade and Gayane Ballet Suites, conducted by the composer (EMI Classics CDC55035).

* Leroy Anderson: Greatest Hits with Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops (RCA 09026-61237-2).

* Eric Coates: The Three Elizabeths Suite with the East of England Orchestra and Malcolm Nabarro (Academy Sound and Vision CD WHL 2053).

* Milhaud: Le Boeuf sur le toit with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Orchestre National de France (EMI CDC-7 47845 2).

Plus: Offenbach's Overtures, Walton's Façade, Kodaly's Hary Janos Suite, Orff's Carmina Burana, Respighi's Pines of Rome, Fountains of Rome and Roman Festival, and Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez-to name just a few.

If you can't find all the classical dishwashing ditties you need for many years and dirty dishes to come, you can always take Spike Jones' musical advice and "Leave the dishes in the sink, ma."

Happy listening!

The Internet may not be a superhighway, but it can be a two-way street! Please take a moment to send your e-mail reaction to this piece to the author at


back to Fred Flaxman's Home Page

  2009 Compact Discoveries