Saturday, March 11, 2006

Elite Eight

The DePauw women won a nail-biter last night. Wheaton came to play, with a good number of orange-clad fans in the bleachers. The final score, 69-60, doesn't really reflect how close the game was. For almost the entire game the two teams were within 4 points of each other. DePauw led for much of the game, but Wheaton did hold the lead at enough points to make me very nervous. The student turnout was great, so much that many students were forced to sit in non-student sections. I played in the pep band (trumpet, not cornetto), both to save money and to show support both for the team and for my students who are involved with the band. We sit right next to the student section, so I was more aware of small shenanigans that go on, including very wacky costumes. The noise was incredible, and the level of play was great.

Unfortunately, both of my alma maters fared worse last night. The Lawrence men's team, though ranked #1, fell to Illinois Wesleyan in a very close game (71-68). I tried to listen to the game as webcast by Lawrence's campus "radio" station, but I have not been able to get their webcasts to work. And the Rochester women lost to Scranton, 68-63. This was probably a good thing, otherwise they could have ended up playing DePauw in the final four.

Tonight we play Hope College. Tremble with fear, you Flying Dutch(men)! There is no Senta at Neal Fieldhouse to redeem you tonight.

The evolution of car music

First there was Woody Guthrie. Then there were the Beatles. Now, we have this: a choir of Foley artists.

(link from Loose Poodle's Peter (the other))

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Fear of Magic

My Film Music class watched The Wizard of Oz last night, followed by my daughter watching it today while home sick. I then read the first three chapters of the book to my daughter, thanks to Project Gutenberg. There are many differences between the book and movie versions, including the switch from silver to ruby slippers (which ruins the Populist movement metaphor). But the biggest difference is that the book Dorothy really did go to a magical land, whereas Judy Garland's Dorothy just had a concussion-induced dream. Why was this change made? In the same year the film version of Wuthering Heights didn't make Cathy's ghost a figment of Heathcliff's imagination. So fantasy films weren't unheard of in 1939. But Cathy's ghost was the supernatural representation of adult longings (mostly, though I found Heathcliff and Cathy to be rather immature). Oz was the supernatural representation of a child's desire to run away and explore new things. I think society did not encourage this desire in their children. World War I and the Depression might have made trips abroad a frightening idea. The cost was unbearable and isolationism was back in vogue.

I always felt that the movie version's ending was a gyp, taking away the wonder of a magical new place. And it saddens me a little when my daughter points out that it is all just a dream, so she hasn't been transported to a new place of adventure and magic either. Thus we are reading the book version, so we can both be lifted away by a cyclone to a magical land surrounded by a great desert.

Update: I just found out via IMDB that the all-just-a-dream idea came from the 1925 silent film that had Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodman. And Frank Baum didn't like the idea.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Conservative music critic?

David Horowitz has become the next big music critic. From his critique of classical saxophone he moves on to female composers.
He spent a little time on the Summers affair. The whole situation is simply explained: Summers asked an innocent question, and the liberals formed a lynch mob. Hiss, boo. And, by the way, did you know that there has never been a great female composer or mathematician? It's been 50 years since Betty Friedan, so there's been plenty of time to raise one, if they were capable of it. (That's right, Betty Friedan fixed everything for women, so it's all your own damn fault now, feminists.)
and from comments:
Piffle. As Horowitz explained, musical composition is at its root a mathematical activity; women aren't as good at math as men; ergo, there have been no great female composers.

PZ's commentors wisely point out some counterexamples to Mr. Horowitz's claim (Hildegard von Bingen, Amy Beach, Joan Tower, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Nadia Boulanger, Sofia Gubaidulina, Louise Farrenc, Cecile Chaminade, Rachel Eubanks, Marta Ptaszynska, Lili Boulanger, Judith Weir, Ethel Smyth, Rachel Portman, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Deirdre Gribbin) to which I would add Augusta Read Thomas, Judith Lang Zaimont, Jennifer Higdon, Meredith Monk, Maria Schneider, Mary Lou Williams, et al.

But what about the claim that composition is primarily a mathematical activity? Let's see some arguments for and against this claim.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Live Blogging the Music Oscars

Who gives a damn about the acting or whatever? It's the music that matters!

11:04 Phantom of the Opera as playout music? They should take these opportunities (playouts, montages) to give some airplay to film composers, especially those that haven't been nominated or previous generations.

10:55 Nice love for the orchestra by Jon Stewart.

10:32 Goodbye, Joel Hirschhorn.

10:23 Queen Latifah is funny, and the audience is missing it. And the oscar goes hip hop.

10:18 Ludacris is in the house! "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" I think one F-word slipped through at the beginning. And apparently they aren't even trying to bleep the "shit"s. I don't know enough about rap to adequately review this one.

9:58 At least the music with the special effects montage was associated with a movie. Ahh, Lord of the Ring's goodness. And now some E.T. love.

9:50 And the oscar goes to Gustavo Santaolla for Brokeback Mountain. I think this is more of an indication of the political support for the movie rather than that this score is better than the other nominees. It is nice that Gustavo acknowledged his orchestrators.

9:45 Penelope Cruz gives us a nice little history of film music. But more importantly, Itzhak with the Original Scores! I'm not sure how to feel about presenting the music "out of sync" with it's movie. It allows us to focus on the music more, but when the music is expertly crafted to lock in with the images, this form of presentation does a disservice. And by having Itzhak play all of them, we miss some of what makes these different soundtracks unique. The instrumentation, expecially of The Constant Gardner are rather missed in the Bill Conti arrangement.

9:37 So for the great American movie montage they use music from Aaron Copland that wasn't written for movies. What's up about that?

9:25 The next Original Song nominee, "In the Deep" by Kathleen "Bird" York and Michael Becker. This one has some space for the visuals, which I could see having potential for a movie. The performance was good.

9:15 Nice chance to listen to Laura's theme for awhile, before the villains came up.

8:52 Interesting, they chose Gladiator to accompany Russell Crowe rather than A Beautiful Mind. The Academy must agree with Jaquandar.

8:36 Dolly Parton is singing the first nomination for best Original Song, from Transamerica. It's okay, but rather generic as a country song. Dolly sells it well, but I don't see anything special about the song itself.

8:25 Nice joke involving the musicians forcing the speech-givers off.

8:15 ooh, background music for the acceptance speeches! That's different.

March Madness, kicking it small school

I have connections with three schools involved in the NCAA Division III championship series. DePauw's women's team crushed Maryville last night, leading by as much as 30 points at one point. I went with Mary, our kids, and one of my colleague's kids. I enjoyed watching the students in the stands as much as the basketball players. The small size of our school allows us to sit right in front of the action, but we still have an enthusiastic pep band (I didn't play cornetto after all, as I couldn't leave my wife to tend to five kids by herself), crazy students who dress up, and obnoxious cheers to give the whole spirit of March Madness. There were also plenty of faculty and staff at the game, a great presence that isn't as noticeable in larger schools.

At the game I wore a Lawrence University sweatshirt, in honor of the men's team that was playing St. Thomas University at the same time. My David-sized Vikings (suddenly I envision the players like this) slew the 10x-as-big Tommies (almost as bad a name as Wabash College's Little Giants). It was a much closer game, thanks to a 4 minute scoring drought Lawrence suffered close to the end.

And I have to give a shout-out to the Rochester Yellowjackets. Since I was both a graduate student and located at the isolated, downtown Eastman campus, I don't have a strong connection to their sports tradition. But I must acknowledge them, even if I will be rooting for the Tigers instead. Go Old Gold!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Watch out, Jaybird

While there is a bit of a look-at-the-freak attitude about this Indy Star article, it does expose the fact that music composition is still a living art. I wish the article would compare young Yihan's music to other living composers. Is his music Downtown or Uptown; tonal, neotonal, or atonal; simple or complex? Listening to the provided audio file, I would characterize Yihan's compositional development to be at the "excellent mimicry" stage. The piano sonata is a great application of the Classical aesthetic, something that David Cope's EMI might have composed after digesting all of Mozart's sonatas. I do not denigrate Yihan Chen by saying this. Imitation is an important step in the development of a composer. If Yihan is still composing music of this style in a few years, then I would be concerned by the lack of originality. But at the age of 12, composing a credible Mozartean piece is a great compliment indeed.

Update: the mimicry is even better than I thought, as the audio file is a transcription of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, first movement. When I was originally writing this post I waffled between calling it Mozartean or Beethovenish, deciding that it was too classically oriented to be an imitation of Beethoven. And of course early Beethoven is much closer to Mozart than to late Beethoven. Sadly, I am not very familiar with Beethoven's piano concerti, other than the Emperor Concerto (no. 5). Thus I made the mistake from above. Thanks to Biton van Argos [not his real name] for pointing it out to me. And welcome to the Mozart Forum readers who have been justly mocking me for the mistake. As to Yihan Chen, I will have to wait to hear one of his original compositions.

Friday Random 10 (late night edition)

I'm still winding down from attending the school production of The Magic Flute and finding out the men's team lost in the first round of Division III March Madness. Still much hope for the women's team though, and my alma mater, Lawrence University. Though I can't decide whether to take up my student's invitation to play the cornetto with the pep band tomorrow night...

1. Newport Jazz Festival Suite: Newport Up, by Duke Ellington
2. Les Rendez-Vous De Chasse Qu Les Vendanges Interrompues Par Les Chasseurs - No. 4 Allegro, performed by Darmstädter Hofkapelle / Wolfgang Seeliger, composed by Georg Joseph Vogler
3. "Fatal la parte," performed by The King's Singers, composed by Juan del Encina
4. Sonata No.13: IV. Allegro Vivace, performed by Maurizio Pollini, composed by Ludwig von Beethoven
5. String Quartet Op. 18 No.5 in A major: Menuetto & Trio, performed by Alban Berg Quartet, composed by Ludwig von Beethoven
6. Concerto No.1 for 3 clarini: Largo, performed by Barbara Butler and Charles Geyer, composed by Georg Philipp Telemann
7. Le Tombeau de Liberace - III. Sequin Music, performed by Paul Crossley / London Sinfonietta / Markus Stenz, composed by Michael Daugherty
8. The Noon Witch Op. 108, performed by Ozawa / Wiener Philharmoniker, composed by Antonín Dvorák
9. "(I'm Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica," Tom Lehrer
10. Notre Dame ("De ventri inferi clamavi"), composed by Franz Schmidt

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I knew that jazz music was dangerous!

When I listed the most dangerous Hoosier professors before, I missed a golden opportunity by neglecting to check their disciplines.

George Wolfe is a most dangerous creature indeed. A saxophonist by trade, he woos our women with his seductive jazz and confuses everyone else with his synthesizer-influenced classical music. You know you can't trust the guy, he engages in the most extreme of post-modern ideals, John Cage's 4'33".And – with his doctorate in higher education from IU, mediator training, research on the cross-relationships of religion, and fellowships to study different cultures – he is clearly unqualified to teach an introductory course on peace studies and conflict management. And apparently he is virulently anti-semitic, as shown by his leadership of the notorious hate group, The Muncie Interfaith Fellowship and his training at the ultimate terrorist school, All-Faiths Seminary International.

Thank you, David Horowitz and David M. Kinchen (do you think they are related?) for warning me about this dangerous professor. I'll not walk the streets of Greencastle tonight, out of fear that he might make the three hour drive to viciously talk to me about peace and love. In fact, I see from Mr. Horowitz's bio that he was brutally pied at the much closer Butler University. Fortunately, I've been educated in the ways of pie.