Monday, January 31, 2005
I'm trying a new book for Form and Analysis, A Practical Approach to the Study of Form in Music by Peter Spencer and Peter Temko. I like the approach of structural functions and phenomena that this book takes, and the exercises are flexible. Well, time to go to my first lunch meeting of the semester, oh frabjous joy!
Saturday, January 29, 2005
I'll make it clear: I oppose the death penalty. A society that sanctions killing loses some of its humanity. The punishment is not a detriment according to studies I've seen. Financial costs are greater for death penalties than for life imprisonment. The protection of society is no different from death or imprisonment. So all we have is the desire for vengeance, the need to satisfy bloodlusts. And so killing is made acceptable as a means of solving problems, not a good lesson for any society.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I have a new idea, a list that should more accurately reflect a person's taste in music. Click on the Top 25 Most Played playlist for iTunes, and list the top ten or so. Mine is:
1."Doin' What I Please" - Don Redman and his Orchestra
2."Into the West" Lord of the Rings - Return of the King soundtrack
3.Bartók's Improvistations sur les chants paysans hongrois, op. 20 - 1 Molto moderato - Claude Helffer
4.Schumann's "Prophetic Bird" from Waldszenen - Claudio Arrau
5.Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata, op. 31/2, 2. Adagio - Glenn Gould
6."Anduril" Lord of the Rings - Return of the King soundtrack
7.Britten's Simple Symphony (arr. Colin Matthews/Simon Wright), I. Boisterous Bouree - The Wallace Collection
8.Shostakovich's Three Fantastic Dances, 1. March: Allegro - Martin Jones
9.Johann Christian Fischer's Concerto in C major, 2. Adagio - Maurice André
10.Giralamo Fantini's Saltarello detto del Naldi - The Parley of Instruments
Tied with Fantini is some Wagner (selections from Tannhauser and Die Meistersinger), Webern's "Wie bin ich froh!", and John Tavener's "The Lamb."
I only started to rip mp3's of my CDs over Thanksgiving, and I've only done about 1/3 of my collection. So symphonies and vocal music are more scarce than my normal habits would suggest. But overall, the Top 25 list (or just listing your library by the number of listenings) gets around the randomness of shuffle mode to show which tracks you found worthy enough to go back to. Unless you only listen in shuffle mode with no weighting for ratings, in which case it doesn't matter much.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Monday, January 24, 2005
My posters will present my findings on "The effects of career path and music education on trumpet articulation categorization." While the title may suggest a snoozer or incredibly obscure research, the results were rather surprising and do have implications on music education. But I will blog more about that closer to the conference dates. For now, I need to decide which concerts to go to. The theme of the Festival is Bach and the Future [not Bach to the Future?] so many concerts feature some contemporary works as well as Baroque and style galant music. Oh, I hope the dollar/euro ratio improves in the next couple of months!
Saturday, January 22, 2005
First, Chris Bertram tells us about an animated version of Wagner's Ring cycle provided by the Goethe Institute. It is done in both German and English, with versions for the 7-11 year-olds and the older children. Besides the animated comic book, there is information about the operas for both the kids and for teachers. One of the commenters at Crooked Timber complains that the site doesn't talk about leitmotifs, but I'm not sure that is necessary for children.
Second, Ted Barlow offers a game. If you are in charge of a satellite radio station, what music would you program? They should be popular songs, but not to be found on regular terrestrial station rotations. Paging John Scalzi and Chad Orzel.
As for my own opinion, here is what I wrote to my brother:
While media coverage of things like this tend to oversimplify for the sake of sensationalism, this one does make a good point that composers write a variety of pieces, each of which may or may not contain elements of the composer's sexuality. I think some of Tchaikovsky's pieces have a tumultuous quality because of his struggles with his sexuality (he married a female student who ended up committing suicide). I think Benjamin Britten gravitated towards operas about the other, because of his "love that dare not speak its name." But then, Britten also wrote the War Requiem to portray his pacifist beliefs, nothing to do with homosexuality.
Terry Teachout recently addressed the question of his sexuality, pointing out that it only mattered to those who were interested in him romantically. In other words, the CJ Craig line. I agree with this, when limited to the form of interactions with the person. But when looking at artistic endevours by someone, biographical information can be illuminating. A former professor of mine determined that Elgar had deliberately quote Wagner's Prize Song in his Second Symphony as a love letter to Mrs. Stuart-Wortley, proved by more traditional love letters he had written to her at the same time. (Gimbel, Allen. "Elgar's Prize Song: Quotation and Allusion in the Second Symphony." 19th-Century Music 12 (Spring 1989): 231-40.) Being aware of the extramusical influences of this quotation provides many interpretation possibilites for the performers. Likewise it could be helpful to know that Schubert was gay, in interpreting some of his songs.
Friday, January 21, 2005
But what I really like about this article is that it mentions Pierre Boulez, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, alongside oscillators and the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). It should really have mentioned CNMAT, the Center for New Music and AudioTechnologies that David Wessel directs. Then it would have married all of my favorite subjects in one little 700 word article.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
One by one the three upper parts of the quartet (the cello, necessarily, remains seated) rise and turn their backs to the audience and each other. At first this looks like a cheap gesture, a gimmick for the end of the work. Each player only has two remember a couple of notes after all, and none of them need to see each other at this stage; if it's too easy, it's not theatre.
Theatrical effects have to be perceived as difficult, otherwise they are merely cheap gimmicks. Harry Houdini, the famous magician/escape artist, certainly knew that he had to make the escapes look hard to get the audience excited. When he was starting out, he would get out of handcuffs and straightjackets in seconds, showing how easy it was for him. The audiences booed, figuring it was just a cheap trick if he could do it so easily. I think Tim is applying this rule to theatrical effects. If the effect is too easy, the audience won't really notice it or figure out what the purpose is. But when it is obviously difficult, as when the quartet restarts in sync while blind to each other, the audience gasps at the impossibility, opening them up for other insights and inspirations. I had never thought about stage effects that way before, it is quite interesting.
Tim's other post is from his series on Music Since 1960. The most recent entry is on Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel. Tim intersperses diary-like real-time observations with interpretations of how the effects were made or why the effects are so magical or meaningful. The diary observations are magical themselves, drawing the reader into Tim's world of Feldman music: A great swell from choir and timpani. At its climax is an impassioned viola flourish, augmented by tubular bells. A sound of grief, of pain. And again. Was that really pain, then? Can I believe what I felt when I heard it?
I am not familiar with this particular piece. It has inspired me to check the university library, to make sure that we have recordings of all the pieces on Tim's list and on Steve Hicken's list. This is both for my benefit and for the benefit of my students. Tim and Steve have each provided a great resource for the discussion of 20th century music, and I would be remiss if I didn't utilize them.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
As you can tell from the title, Carlos is rather political and also likes to draw from his Puerto Rican roots. As he finished this composition this fall while at DePauw, you can hear what midwestern life has done to him. I haven't heard this particular work yet, but I've really enjoyed every piece by Carlos that I have heard. Just ask him to speak slowly if you converse with him afterwards.
Friday, January 14, 2005
The other thing that can be appreciated is how Everett uses a single view of tonality, Schenkerian theory, to show how specific rock songs deviate from this standard, giving each one its unique appearance. I would have liked to seen more of this, rather than the comparison of pieces from 1957-58 and 1999-2000 that make up Part II of the paper. The scoring system Everett uses in Part II is not described adequately, so the results are highly questionable. And even if we accept the results as accurate, Everett does not provide any meaningful conclusions, beyond the obvious fact that the more contemporary period is more diverse in tonal systems.
Don't be turned off by the Schenkerian graphs in the figures. If you have an interest in rock music from anytime between 1950 and 2003, you will find something to appreciate in this article.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
I'm actually surprised at how high I scored on this. Not as high as PZ Meyers or many of his commenters, but I figured my lack of updatedness on computer stuff would hold me back. I agree with one of Paul's commenters, Michelle, that the test has a very narrow definition of nerdiness. Afterall, I've shown how nerdy one can be about music.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
I wonder if the homogeneity of cultures that has come about with the information age has killed the ability of cultural legends to prepare various peoples for tragedies that can befall them. Or perhaps it was the evangelism of Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity that destroyed these psychological ballistrades. These major religions were born in desert lands or the jungle, so they do not have a major focus on the treachery of the sea. Whatever the reason, I think the psychological impact of the tsunami shows the need for disparate local cultures, and the dangers of spreading belief systems beyond their birth places.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
In other news, I see that ACD has called for an end to the debate about theater. I didn't really see a debate in the first place, since ACD refused to respond to any points made by others. He claims they ignored his question ("Why should live theater survive as an art form today when film seems better able to do a play justice?") while claiming that any discussion of the relative merits of film and stage are not relevant answers. He falls back on his tried-n-true argument of the "artwork itself," seemingly ignoring the possibility that the realization of a given artwork can define a distinct art form. So why should live theater survive? Because it provides a form of realization that film does not, as George Hunka ably shows. The artwork itself is not just a script, but the way it is realized by the actors, directors, and the technologies of stage or screen. Art forms that are dynamic – drama, music, dance – are inherently collaborative efforts. Someone decides what should be done: the author, composer, or choreographer. Someone else does the actual art: the actor, musician, or dancer. If many performers are involved, another layer of collaboration is added with the director and/or conductor. The two or three sets of artists work together, even across centuries, to produce a given artwork. Beethoven's Seventh Symphony is a lovely abstract concept, but the actual artwork is a collaboration between Beethoven and the London Symphony with Pierre Monteux, or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Daniel Berenboim, each a separate artwork to be evaluated on its own terms. It can also be a collaboration between Beethoven and myself, as I read through the score and perform the symphony in my head. Beethoven makes suggestions on pitches, rhythms, and timbres, but I decide how fast to replay it, what actual frequencies to imagine, and what the strings and timpani should sound like. As any good theory goes, this one has exceptions that prove the rule. A free improviser is sole creator of a work, deciding and realizing all in one go. A playwright can perform his/her own monologue, though I still would argue that this is a collaboration between different aspects of that person's creative persona.
Monday, January 03, 2005
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, special extended version – I hated the extra scene, “The Voice of Saruman”. I will not spoil the results for anyone, but it just didn’t fit with the rest of the movie or the rest of the trilogy. The Mouth of Sauron was cool, and I liked the bigger focus on the romance of Faramir and Eowyn. The other extra scenes were fine, though I’m not sure about the changes to “The Paths of the Dead.”
The Incredibles – this was well done, though I found that it didn’t stick with me after the viewing. I often replay scenes in my head, but nothing really came to mind, even during the nine-hour drive from Wisconsin to Michigan. I’m definitely glad we didn’t take the kids to see this movie. The casual way that heroes and villains died is not something I want to expose the wee ones to yet. I thought the portrayal of the five members of the family was very realistic, especially the way the kids panicked at the first signs of trouble.
Kinsey – our New Year’s Eve date movie, this had a special connection given Kinsey’s position at Indiana University. This was a very good movie, well written and well acted. The movie was not a hagiography of Alfred Kinsey, nor was it a scandal-monger. It showed how his relationship with his father affected his relationship with his own son without dwelling on it, and showed how open marriages can have adverse affects without being preachy. The last two scenes are very touching, including a great showing by Lynne Redgrave.
– I watched most of this on PBS late at night on Jan. 1. The last time I saw this movie I was only 10 or 12, and didn’t understand most of it. This time I got it, though I’m still not a huge fan of Woody Allen’s humor. I had completely forgotten that Christopher Walken and Harold Ramis were in this movie, though they both did as well as any other character. I would not call this an acting movie, it is more focused on concepts and quick jokes than on actual emotion.
Spider-Man 2 – I found the second DVD extra features much more interesting than those that were included in the first movie. I found I was still annoyed by something that struck me when I saw this in the theatre: comic books and comic book movies always refer to "Science" rather than to Physics, Chemistry, or Biology. Dr. Octavius, in describing how he and his wife met, says that she was studying English Literature and he was studying Science. Come on, the man is clearly a physicist, he is creating a fusion reaction. Of course, the cybernetic arms show a mastery of biology and mechanical engineering as well, so maybe he was a wunderkind studying all forms of science at once. But then he should mention all of them, or acknowledge his special training in some way.