Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Top 50 Classical Music Blogs - Google Version

Using the number of Google links gives a different result than Technorati links, since Google counts links from non-blog sites, and has a more complicated algorithm for determining whether to count a particular link or not. I've heard some explanations of this, but I'm not sure I have the total picture. Also different from Technorati, Google counts all active links, regardless of how old they are. Thus this ranking has a bias for older blogs that have had more time to accumulate links. Here is the ranking based on the number of Google links (listed after the blog name), as determined by typing link:URL in Google.

1 About Last Night: 8840 Terry Teachout (Crit)
2 The Rest is Noise: 6560 Alex Ross (Crit)
3 PostClassic: 2790 Kyle Gann (C)
4 On an Overgrown Path: 2580 Bob Shingleton (producer)
5 Sandow: 2560 Greg Sandow (Crit)
6 Adaptistration: 1890 Drew McManus (orchestra management)
7 Ionarts: 1880 Charles T. Downey (A)
8 Jessica Duchen: 1620 (Crit)
9 Sequenza21: 1560 Jerry Bowles (C)
10 Night after Night: 1410 Steve Smith (Crit)
11 Sounds and Fury: 1320 AC Douglas (L)
12 The Iron Tongue of Midnight: 1130 Lisa Hirsch (Crit)
13 Musical Perceptions: 1090 Me (A)
14 Mad Musings of Me: 1070 Gertsamtkunstwerk (O)
15 Classical Music: 1030 Janelle Gelfand (Crit)
16 Soho the Dog: 1020 Matthew Guerreri (C)
17 Think Denk: 919 Jeremy Denk (piano)
18 Oboeinsight: 864 Patty Mitchell (oboe)
19 Deceptively Simple: 851 Marc Geelhoed (Crit)
20 The Standing Room: 776 Monsieur C (L and voice?)
21 The Concert: 762 Anne-Carolyn Bird (voice)
22 Listen: 733 Steve Hicken (C and Crit)
23 Aworks: 722 Robert Gable (L)
24 Twang Twang Twang: 714 Helen Radice (harp)
25 La Cieca: 705 James Jorden (O)
26 Vilaine fille: 691 (Crit)
27 The Rambler: 654 Tim Rutherford-Johnson (A)
28 Wellsung: 622 Alex and Jonathan (O)
29 Diaries: 620 (violin)
30 The Well-Tempered Blog: 615 Bart Collins (piano)
31 Sieglinde’s Diaries: 614 Leon Dominguez (O)
32 Meanwhile, here in France: 603 Ruth (cello)
33 Jason Heath's Double Bass Blog: 563 (bass)
34Prima La Musica, poi le parole: 543 Sarah Noble (O)
35 An Unamplified Voice: 512 JSU (O)
36 Dial “M” for Musicology: 492 Phil Ford and Jonathan Bellman (A)
37 Felsenmusick: 470 Daniel Felsenfield (C)
38 Café Aman: 458 Anastasia Tsioulcas (Crit)
39 Roger Bourland: 447 Roger Bourland (C)
40 Daily Observations: 438 Charles Noble (viola)
41 Trrill: 426 Nick Scholl (O)
42 Renewable Music: 396 Daniel Wolf (C)
43 Chicago Classical Music: 363 (L)
44 Sound and Mind: 331 Kris Shaffer (A)
45 Loose Poodle: 329 Peter (the other) Kaye (C)
46 ANABlog: 310 Analog Arts Ensemble
47 Sounds Like Now: 309 Brian Sacawa (saxophone)
48 A View from the Podium: 307 Kenneth Woods (conductor)
48 NY Opera Fanatic: 307 Roy Wood (O)
50 In the Wings: 296 Heather Heise (piano)

The top 51 Classical Music Blogs - Technorati version

Here are the top 52 Classical Blogs, as ranked by the number of unique blogs linking to said blog (the Technorati Authority number). Unlike last time, I used only the larger Technorati Authority (TA) number if a blog had two addresses, no adding. There are several surprises, some significant moves in the list, including a new #1. The largest mover upwards was Hucbald, who rose 48 spots from June's ranking. Close behind were Today's Opera News (42) and the CSO Bass Blog (41). I had a TA of 79 three weeks ago, but that dropped down sharply, probably as all of the links from my June list timed out. Technorati only counts links from the last six months, and I actually did the June list in May. Thus I continue my slow descent in the ranks. But then I did take many breaks these last six months, and didn't do much spreading of link love to encourage higher links back to me. Commence the complaints about your own rank.

The list shows the rank, the blog, the TA, the author(s), and the category: C = composer, Crit = critic, O = opera, A = academic, L = listener, AD = arts director, and the rest are self explanatory.
Update: I've made a few corrections.
Update II: One more correction. Sorry for the error, Steve. And thanks to Marc for catching my mistakes.

1 Sequenza21: 783 Jerry Bowles (C)
2 The Rest is Noise: 650 Alex Ross (Crit)
3 About Last Night: 314 Terry Teachout (Crit)
4 Opera Chic: 181 (O)
5 Diaries: 158 (violin)
6 On an Overgrown Path: 144 Bob Shingleton (producer)
7 Ionarts: 133 Charles T. Downey (A)
8 PostClassic: 129 Kyle Gann (C)
9 Night after Night: 122 Steve Smith (Crit)
10 Soho the Dog: 120 Matthew Guerreri (C)
11 Jason Heath's Double Bass Blog: 112 (bass)
12 Sandow: 107 Greg Sandow (Crit)
13 Think Denk: 106 Jeremy Denk (piano)
14 La Cieca: 103 James Jorden (O)
15 Jessica Duchen: 93 (Crit)
16 Dial “M” for Musicology: 79 Phil Ford and Jonathan Bellman (A)
16 Sounds Like Now: 79 Brian Sacawa (saxophone)
18 Sounds and Fury: 76 AC Douglas (L)
19 Deceptively Simple: 74 Marc Geelhoed (Crit)
20 The Concert: 71 Anne-Carolyn Bird (voice)
21 Adaptistration: 68 Drew McManus (orchestra management)
22 The Standing Room: 65 Monsieur C (L and voice?)
23 The Iron Tongue of Midnight: 64 Lisa Hirsch (Crit)
24 Musical Perceptions: 62 Me (A)
25 The Rambler: 60 Tim Rutherford-Johnson (A)
26 Oboeinsight: 58 Patty Mitchell (oboe)
27 Collaborative Piano: 55 Chris Foley (piano)
28 CSO Bass Blog: 49 (bass)
29 Roger Bourland: 47 Roger Bourland (C)
30 A Singer's Life: 44 Michelle Bennett (voice) [stopped posting in September]
31 My Favorite Intermissions: 42 Maury D’annato (O)
32 Classical Life: 41 Timothy Mangan (Crit)
33 ANABlog: 40 Analog Arts Ensemble
34 Aworks: 40 Robert Gable (L)
35 Sieglinde’s Diaries: 39 Leon Dominguez (O)
35 Renewable Music: 38 Daniel Wolf (C)
36 Chicago Classical Music: 36 (L)
37 A Monk's Musical Musings: 35 Hucbald (guitar)
37 Musical Assumptions: 35 Elaine Fine (C and viola)
39 Brian Dickie: 33 (AD)
40 Catalysts & Connections: 31 Evan Tobias (education)
40 Counter/Point: 31 manpranissimo (voice) [no longer music]
40 Listen: 31 Steve Hicken (C and Crit)
43 Mad Musings of Me: 30 Gertsamtkunstwerk (O)
43 Vilaine fille: 30 (Crit)
45 Terminaldegree: 29 (kazoo)
46 Wellsung: 29 Alex and Jonathan (O)
47 Thirteen Ways: 28 eighth blackbird (ensemble)
47 Wolf Trap Opera: 28 (O)
49 Today's Opera News: 27 Alan Foust (O)
49 The Well-Tempered Blog: 27 Bart Collins (piano)
51 A View from the Podium: 26 Kenneth Woods (conductor)
51 Classical Music: 26 Janelle Gelfand (Crit)

Friday, December 21, 2007

FriPod: Top 10

Here are the 10 most played tunes on my iTunes for the year (10 and 11 tied for the same number of plays).

1. "Creep" by Radiohead, performed by the Edward Welles Quartet.
2. "Hope and Memory" by Howard Shore, from the Lord of the Rings, Return of the King soundtrack.
3. "Luna" from Ayre by Osvaldo Golijov, performed by Dawn Upshaw.
4. "God Only Knows" by Brian Wilson, performed by Petra Haden.
5. "Ich Klag Mein Not, O Herr Mein Gott" a 5, by Anonymous, performed by the Copenhagen Cornetts & Sackbutts and Ars Nova.
6. "Down to the River to Pray" performed by Alison Krauss on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
7. "Twilight and Shadow" by Howard Shore on the Lord of the Rings, Return of the King soundtrack.
8. "Sueltate las cintas" from Ayre by Osvaldo Golijov, performed by Dawn Upshaw.
9. Saltarello detto del Naldi by Giralamo Fantini, performed by The Parley of Instruments.
10. "I am a Man of Constant Sorrow" performed by The Soggy Bottom Boys on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
11. "Jesus Christus Nostra Salus" a 8, by Heinrich Fink, performed by the Copenhagen Cornetts & Sackbutts and Ars Nova.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Grading update

I now have all final exams graded. However, I'm still wading through final composition projects. I did manage to get my driver's license renewed today, only one month late. I found out it had expired when I flew out to Baltimore for the SMT conference. This gave me the charming opportunity to be marked for extra security checks on each flight to and from the conference.

Right now I'm watching a DVD of the Glyndenbourne Opera performing Stravinsky's Rake's Progress, thanks to Netflix. Anne is somewhat unclear in her diction, and Tom mugs directly to the camera, but the sets are interesting with their evocation of Victorian sketches, and the music has some beautiful moments, like "Never, Never."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Atonality's Anniversary

Alex Ross has declared today Atonality Day. I didn't do anything special to celebrate, beyond listening to some Lutoslawski while driving down to Bloomington. I'm in the midst of finishing my final grades and getting holiday plans in order. I also mini-celebrated my official letter of tenure and promotion from the university president on Friday, by going out to a local bar to hear some colleagues play an eclectic mix of Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane, "Fly Me To the Moon," James Brown, Weather Report, etc. Other than an accidentally transposed synth during "White Rabbit," they sounded really tight. And to complete this random set of links and announcements, my mom sent me this Xmas treatment by Indiana University's men's a cappella group, Straight No Chaser:

I feel bad for the dreidel singer.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

SatPod: Snow and Wind

We got hit by a snow storm yesterday and today, including blizzard winds.

1. "Snow Dreams" by Joan Tower, performed by Carol Wincenc and Sharon Isbin. A very cold duet for flute and guitar.
2. "Dance of the Tumblers" from The Snow Maiden by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.
3. Dance Movements by David Snow, performed by the American Brass Quintet.
4. "Blowin' in the wind" by Bob Dylan, performed by Peter, Paul and Mary.
5. Gone With the Wind soundtrack, by Max Steiner.
6. "Gone With 'What' Wind" by Benny Goodman and Count Basie, performed by the Benny Goodman Sextet on Charlie Christian: Genius of Electric Guitar.
7. Concerto for 7 Wind Instruments by Frank Martin, performed by Richard Kapp and the Philharmonia Virtuosi.
8. Music for Eighteen Winds by John Harbison, performed by the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble.
9. Partita for Wind Quintet by Irving Fine, performed by the Dorian Quintet.
10. Quintet for Woodwinds by Jean Francaix, performed by the Dorian Quintet.
11. Scherzo for Woodwind Quintet by Eugene Bozza, performed by the Dorian Quintet.
12. SextourSextuor for Piano and Woodwind Quintet by Francis Poulenc, performed by the Dorian Quintet.
13. Symphonies of Wind Instruments by Igor Stravinsky, performed by Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
14. Summer Music for Woodwind Quartet by Samuel Barber, performed by the New York Philomusica Chamber Ensemble.
15. Symphony for Winds by Donald Erb, performed by the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble.
16. Variations for Wind Band by Ralph Vaughan Williams, performed by the Eastman Wind Ensemble.
17. Im Sommerwind by Anton Webern, performed by Christoph von Dohnányi and the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.
18. "The Wind" by Russ Freeman, performed by Chet Baker on Chet Baker With Strings.
19. "Wind-Up" by Ian Anderson, performed by Jethro Tull on Aqualung.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rank This!

It is about time for me to tabulate the top 50-ish classical music blogs again, in my semi-annual efforts to win friends and enemies. Now is the time to send me the URL's of any blogs I should consider for the ranking. Please do not send me blogs that I have already ranked here, here, or here, or that are listed in the comments to those posts. But do let me know if an address needs to be updated. I will start checking stats on December 20, so get me any changes before then.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tradition and Innovation

Many of the participants of DePauw's Post-Classical Symposium have already blogged their views: Tim Munro of eighth blackbird (Part 1, Part 2), Greg Sandow (Part 1, Part 2), and Eric Edberg. What finally got me stirred enough to comment was a lecture given yesterday by the Dean of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. He was talking about the concerns of the Episcopal Church, with declining attendance and lacks of connection between clergy and laity. Dean Hall has been exploring ways to change seminary education to train priests for today's environment. Replace church with concerts, seminaries with conservatories, and priests with musicians, and you have the discussions from the Post-Classical Symposium. In both cases, there is a tension between celebrating tradition and pushing for innovation. In classical music tradition is found in theory and history classes, ensemble repertoire, and the canon studied in lessons. Religious tradition holds to certain interpretations of Scripture, core values of morality, etc. But because not enough people are going to concerts or churches, there are moves to innovate, by altering the canon (Episcopal pun intended) or the organizations. Emphasis on chamber music and lay ministers, rock-influenced classical music and rock-influenced liturgical music, these efforts to progress and grow can also be taken as disrespect for traditional values. Listening to Greg Sandow and Joe Horowitz, it is clear that these gentlemen greatly respect the traditions of classical music while looking for ways to change it. And just as the tensions in the Episcopal Church could be alleviated by realizing the respect for tradition as well as growth, the tensions involved in "saving" classical music also need these reminders.

Friday, December 07, 2007

FriPod: Academic to After

Yes, I haven't blogged for a week. There are several causes for this silence:
  1. It is the last week of classes, and I was trapped under ungraded exams and homework.
  2. I got my early midlife crisis, and I was trapped by Wii Sports and Paper Mario.
  3. I purchased several books, and I was trapped by Alex Ross and Stephen Ericksen.
  4. DePauw's Post-Classical Symposium demanded my attention, and I was trapped by a panel discussion and four awesome concerts (two not associated with the symposium).
  5. My furnace broke and kept me from seeing Alex Ross at the Hilbert Circle Theater, and I was trapped with two very cold cats.
  6. My uncle died and my marriage ended, and I was trapped in an uncommunicative funk.
But now classes are over, I've gotten (mostly) over the funk and the symptomatic videogaming and bookreading, concerts are over other than my daughter's violin recital tonight, and my furnace is fixed. So now a new FriPod:

1. Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, by Brahms, performed by Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
2. Accellerationen by Johann Strauss, Jr., performed by Willi Boskovksy and the Vienna Philharmonic.
3. "Accidentally Like a Martyr" by Warren Zevon on Excitable Boy.
4. "Ach Elslein, liebes Elselein" by Ludwig Senfl, performed by the King's Singers.
5. "Ach Herre, Sehe Uns Genädig An" by Jørgen Presten, performed by the Copenhagen Cornetts and Sackbutts and Ars Nova.
6. "Ach, weh des Leiden" by Hans Leo Hassler, performed by the King's Singers.
7. "Acordes moy" by Antoine Busnois, performed by Piffaro.
8. "Addendum" for violin, cello and piano by Chick Corea on Works.
9. "Adieu Mes Amours" by Anonymous, performed by the Copenhagen Cornetts and Sackbutts and Ars Nova.
10. "Africa" by Arturo Sandoval on Danzón.
11. "Afro-Cuban Lullaby" (traditional) performed by Christopher Parkening.
12. "After Antietam" by James Horner on the Glory soundtrack.
13. "After The Thrill Is Gone" by the Eagles on Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 2.
14. "After You've Gone" by Creamer and Layton, performed by Roy Eldridge on Little Jazz.

Friday, November 30, 2007

FriPod: Psalm 100

I've been neglecting many things lately, including this blog. So to get back into things, I'm using Anne-Carolyn's meme as my FriPod.

MEME Rules:

1. Put your iTunes/ music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4. Find a bit of lyrics from the song that matches the question.

*I'm altering this slightly, allowing me to skip music that doesn't have any lyrics (either performed or implied).

1. If someone says ‘Is this OK?’ you say?
"Why Are You Ladies Staying - Hark I Hear Some Dancing" by Thomas Weelkes, performed by American Brass Quintet.
Run apace and greet them/And with your garlands greet them.

2. What would best describe your personality?
"Als Nurenberg Belagert War" from Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg by Wagner.
I don't see any connection.

3. What do you like in a guy?
"Mario! Mario! Mario!... son qui" from Tosca by Puccini:
Um, a painting cavalier? A rebel? Let's go with artistic and socially active.

4. How do you feel today?
"Who am I?" from Les Miserables:
My soul belongs to God, I know I made that bargain long ago He gave me hope when hope was gone He gave me strength to journey on

5. What is your life’s purpose?
"Crux fidelis" from St. Luke's Passion by Penderecki.
Faithful cross, above all other, the one noble tree.

6. What is your motto?
"Tenderly", Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong:
The evening breeze caressed the trees tenderly The trembling trees embraced the breeze tenderly

7. What do your friends think of you?
"Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit" from Deutsches Requiem by Brahms:
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. [...]As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you.

8. What do you think of your parents?
"I Get Ideas", Louis Armstrong:
I want to hold you

This is the only part that seems appropriate.

9. What do you think about very often?
"Rose of the Rio Grande", Ivie Anderson:
Happy little bride and bridegroom [...]
I've got your loveness planned.

10. What does 2+2=
"Rompe Sprezza" by Scarlotti, performed by Wynton Marsalis and Kathleen Battle:
I can't find a translation, but this song is about a woman who callously breaks hearts. That's math for you.

11. What do you think of your best friend?
"Singt dem Herren, alle Stimmen" from The Creation by Haydn:
give thanks

12. What do you think of the person you like?
"Kommt, Ihr Töchter, Helft Mir Klagen" from St. Matthew's Passion by Bach:
Just like a lamb

13. What is your life story?
"My Life", Billy Joel:
They will tell you, you can't sleep alone in a strange place / Then they'll tell you, you can't sleep with somebody else / Ah, but sooner or later you sleep in your own space / Either way it's okay, you wake up with yourself

14. What do you want to be when you grow up?
"An Die Turen Will Ich Schleichen" by Schumann, performed by Keenlyside.
quiet and humble will I stand

15. What do you think when you see the person you like?
"Ladies Night", Kool & the Gang:
You dance, you smile, the guys go wild

16. What do your parents think of you?
"Into the West", Annie Lennox (Return of the King soundtrack):
Why do you weep? What are these tears upon your face? Soon you will see. All of your fears will pass away. Safe in my arms, you’re only sleeping.

17. What will you dance to at your wedding?
"Serenity (A Unison Chant) by Charles Ives, performed by Susan Graham:
Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

18. What will they play at your funeral?
"Somebody Loves Me" by George Gershwin, performed by Ella Fitzgerald.
Somebody loves me, I wonder who, Maybe it's you.

19. What is your hobby/interest?
"Goody Goody" by Johnny Mercer, performed by Ella Fitzgerald:
So you lie awake just singing the blues all night, goody goody!
And you found that loves a barrell of dynamite!

20. What is your biggest secret?
"And He shall purify" from the Messiah by Handel:
And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an
offering in righteousness.

That I've become religious? Not really a secret, but I don't evangelize to students or friends either. That my theology is more Jewish than Christian, though I label myself an Episcopalian? Not really a big secret either. And I'm not going to write my biggest secret here, that's why it's called a secret!

21. What do you think of your friends?
"Warum wollt ihr erschrecken?" from the Christmas Oratorio by Bach:
Instead be moved with gladness

I wish the best of them, try to support them in my flawed ways, am thankful of their support.

22. What should you post this as?
"Psalm 100" by Charles Ives, performed by San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
Shout for Joy

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for:
  • my family
  • my friends
  • music
  • nature
  • God
  • the ability to love
  • the ability to feel pain
  • my career
  • my students
  • my counselors
  • funny movies
  • cute pets
  • laughter
  • good food
  • honesty
  • time's healing powers
  • knowing when it's time to go to bed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Now that's Interdisciplinary

I've been off at the SMT conference, complete with end-of-conference cold that has dropped my voice a diatessaron and killed any desire to blog. So I'm easing back into blogging with this celebration of science and music melded into a thing of beauty.

(I blame Mind Hacks.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nerding out

Yesterday I revealed my extensive knowledge of Star Trek to my students, reaffirming my nerd status. Right now I'm looking through the program for the Society for Music Theory annual conference, so I can make plans as to which papers I want to hear. That is already a little nerdy, but I'm also getting excited about some of the papers, ramping up my pocket-protector status. The plenary session will be really good, "Issues in Music Cognition." One of my dissertation advisors, Betsy Marvin, is chairing this session with Carol Krumhansl, Fred Lerdahl, Laurel Trainor, and David Huron. And right before this session the Music Cognition Interest Group is meeting to discuss Justin London's theory of meter.

So, where should I go to eat while in Baltimore? And any concerts happening there on Friday or Saturday evening (especially Saturday, there's no papers that night)?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Birthday news

As is usual, my birthday is celebrated as a national holiday today (tomorrow in terms of bank and government vacation). The Packers are giving me a present by kicking the hated Vikings behinds (20-0 right now). The DePauw football team gave me an early present by capturing the Monon Bell in a very exciting game (missed extra point balanced by a 2 point conversion, interception on the Wabash 4, first-down conversion on 4th and 2, game-winning field goal as time runs out). And I've been enjoying cards, presents, and well-wishes from family, friends, and students. It is a little bittersweet, turning 38 as I'm newly single. I've decided to have my midlife crisis a touch early, yearning for a Wii.

Oh, and so much for aiming for a wide audience:
cash advance

Update: And I've officially reached the 100,000 viewers mark on my birthday! The viewer who made the milestone at 6:41 pm (ET) was from Austin, Texas. This person was looking for "journal articles does warming up your voice effect the pitch of your voice girls chiors[sic]". I'm guessing my blog was disappointing to this person, but a view is a view. Now to see if the Colts will give me another present. My kids gave me cold weather running gear: long-sleeved shirt, hat, gloves and socks. The socks aren't specifically cold weather, but they are specific running socks, a step up from my cotton footies that could've started eating up my feet with the longer distances I'm running. I look forward to trying out the new gear tomorrow.

Friday, November 09, 2007

FriPod: After

1. "After Antietam" from the Glory soundtrack by James Horner. Boy's choir over military music, a combination of hope and sorrow about a Pyrrhic victory. Right now I'm trying to avoid these kinds of victories.

2. "After the Thrill is Gone" by the Eagles on Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 2. I like this album, but this song is not one of my favorites. A little too country, though the vocal harmonies are nice. I'd replace "thrill" with other words, but I grok the sentiment.

3. "After You've Gone" by Creamer and Layton, performed by Roy Eldridge on Little Jazz. Rather cheery for the title, though perhaps it can teach me to rediscover joy. The lyrics focus on a vengeful schadenfreude, which I understand but am trying not to emphasize. Amazon MP3.

4. "After the War" from Different Trains by Steve Reich, performed by Kronos Quartet. Hypnotic, though some of the taped spoken words are too fuzzy in timbre. Slow change, nuances that are easy to miss, uncertain if we are going somewhere or where that destination might be. Just like life. Amazon MP3.

5. "The Night After" by Spang A Lang. This is a rock group of fellow Lawrence alums based in Minneapolis in the 90s. The synth sounds are a little dated, and the lead vocals are a touch too husky for my taste. "Time is damaging" not a refrain to which I want to subscribe.

6. "Sometime Later ... And After" by Bob Levy, on Did You Ever Cross Over To Sneden's? Rather abstract for a jazz album, but it fits Bob's persona. He knows what comes after. Turmoil, fear, anger, lost and alone, but found by others who understand.

7. Prelude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Claude Debussy, performed by (a) Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, (b) Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I was doing a search for "apres" and this came up, even though it is really about an afternoon than being after something else. But it does capture many of the right emotions in a beautiful and sensual way. Amazon MP3.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Hearing space

Today I read two things that converged.

Stewart, L. and Walsh, V. (2007) "Music perception: sounds lost in space," Current Biology 17/20, R892-3.
A recent study of spatial processing in amusia makes a controversial claim that such musical deficits may be understood in terms of a problem in the representation of space. If such a link is demonstrated to be causal, it would challenge the prevailing view that deficits in amusia are specific to the musical or even the auditory domain.
Lahiri, N. and Duncan, JS. (2007) "The Mozart effect: encore," Epilepsy Behavior 11/1, 152-3.

We admitted for assessment a 56-year-old gentleman who had experienced gelastic seizures (laughing fits) since shortly after birth. He developed complex partial seizures during his teenage years and secondarily generalized tonic–clonic seizures in his midthirties...

It was agreed that he should be admitted for reassessment of his condition and to determine whether further surgical intervention could be of benefit.

A few months prior to his admission, he learned that Mozart's music had been used, with some success, to enhance spatiotemporal reasoning. He therefore began to listen to Mozart for an average of 45 min a day. He did not listen to one particular piece of music.

Before he began listening to Mozart, he was having gelastic seizures with intense laughter, in association with altered perception and experiential phenomena, at a frequency of five or six per day, as well as secondarily generalized tonic–clonic seizures at an average frequency of seven per month. Electroencephalography revealed some evidence of right hemisphere involvement during the seizures that lasted 15–30 s. Seizures also were associated with a brief rise in heart rate.

Within days of starting to listen to Mozart regularly, he noticed a difference in the pattern of his seizures. In the 3 months during which he had listened to Mozart, he did not have any secondarily generalized tonic–clonic seizures. He continued to have five gelastic seizures a day, but these manifested as simply a brief smile (5–9 s), which he could disguise in the presence of others; in addition, the altered perception and experiential phenomena ceased. [via Mind Hacks]

Both of these studies emphasize the connection between the abilities of music perception and spatial reasoning. Certainly we use plenty of words about space when describing music: high vs. low notes, fast vs. slow tempo, linear motion, etc. Could it be that these ideas arise from our processing of music through the spatial reasoning portions of the brain?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Shameless Self promotion

Ronnie Pejril, whose sound installation at Quarry Sounds was really cool, shot some video of various parts of Quarry Sounds with his phone and posted them on YouTube. Here is his shot of me, though the audio is very faint:

I was up on a cliff overlooking the quarry, while people strolled below on the various paths. I'm told my sound carried over quite a distance, so I hope it wasn't too annoying to the other musicians. As you can see from the video, it was rather difficult for the attendees to actually see me.

In other news, my tenure and promotion has been recommended by the School of Music Personnel Committee. Now it moves up to the University Committee on Faculty.

Beware the kutchy!

A student just came to my door asking if I knew the name or history of the music always associated with snake charming, especially in cartoons. I didn't, but a quick Google search turned up this web page full of historical information. (The page also automatically starts playing a MIDI version of the song, so beware.) The first five notes may be from an authentic Algerian/Arabian song called "Kradoutja" that was popular in France in the 1600s. This was then transmitted along as the beginning of an 1857 French song called "Echos du Temps Passé". In 1893 Sol Bloom, the entertainment director of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, claims to have improvised the current version for a press briefing to introduce an exhibit at the Exposition called "A Street in Cairo." Perhaps he heard it from musicians imported for the Expo. He didn't copyright the music, so several other composers wrote their own versions, the surviving copyrighted version is "The Streets of Cairo" by James Thornton. The web page also includes various sightings of the melody, from cartoons to They Might Be Giants. The research and web page was done by Shira, a belly dancer in Iowa City. And, coincidentally enough, I and my kids saw belly dancers yesterday at Art Attack, the children's event of DePauw's Art Fest with a wide variety of activities and performances. I think belly dancers are out to conquer the world.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I've become ambient!

This week is DePauw's ArtFest, which has a new topic every year. This year's topic is Art and the Environment. Some things make perfect sense with this topic, like the decorated community bikes to encourage all of the community to bike rather than drive cars. Other events do not fit the topic at all, such as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra's concert. In fact, the School of Music often has difficulty crafting performances that fit the year's topic well. But tomorrow I will be taking part in a performance that definitely fits Art and the Environment. DePauw has a beautiful Nature Park, which used to be a working quarry. One of my colleagues, Nicole Brockmann, has designed a 30-minute walking tour within the park, with musical performances planted along the way. The tour, called Quarry Sounds, ends at the new Prindle Institute of Ethics, where string ensembles will perform during a reception. Here is a Google Map that Nicole created with the tour and performers labeled. Click on the points or the labels to get more details. Most of the performers are students at the School of Music, but my meager efforts on the cornetto will be matched by faculty members Ronnie Pejril (ambient sound installation) and Gabriel Crouch (singing with students in a chamber group). I'm looking forward to this. The leaves are in full color change right now, and the weather has been gorgeous (brisk but very sunny).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Retuning: Social bookmarks

I've tinkered around to add social bookmarks to each post for Digg,, Reddit, Slashdot, Facebook, and StumbleUpon. Let me know if said modifications cause problems with viewing the blog, or if the bookmark links don't work. Also, do you use these types of bookmarks regularly? If so, which ones? I'm on Facebook, but hadn't thought to promote my blog there beyond putting my url on my profile page.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

WedPod: Halloween

Special Halloween edition of FriPod (the kids were a witch and a pirate, had a great time trick-or-treating). Go back and read the witch's Halloween story again. For this playlist I skipped the Dies Irae's and Funeral music that others have included, sticking with monsters.

1) "In the Devil's Snare and the Flying Keys" by John Williams on the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone soundtrack.

2) "The Devil's Dance" and "The Devil's Triumphant March" from L'Histoire du Soldat by Stravinsky, performed by Gerard Schwarz and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Amazon MP3, Amazon MP3.

3) "The Magic of Halloween" by John Williams on the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial soundtrack.

4) The Noon Witch by Antonin Dvorak, performed by Seiji Ozawa and the Wiener Philharmoniker.

5) "The Witch, Baba Yaga" from Fairy Tale Characters by Oleg Oblov, performed by the Aries Brass Quintet.

6) "Zombie" by the Cranberries on No Need to Argue. Amazon MP3.

7) "Ghost Dance" from Ancient Voices of Children by George Crumb, performed by Jan DeGaetani, Machael Dash, the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Amazon MP3.

8) "(I don't stand a) Ghost of a Chance" by Victor Young, performed by Clifford Brown on Jazz 'Round Midnight.

9) Triskelion (Andante (with a ghostly quality)) by Bruce Adolphe, performed by the American Brass Quintet. Amazon MP3.

10) "The Superstitious Ghost" by Fred Himebaugh.

11) The Six Realms (1999-2000) For Amplified Cello And Orchestra: 3. The Hungry Ghost Realm, by Peter Lieberson, performed by Michaela Fukacova, Odense Symphony Orchestra, Justin Brown.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pythagoras Revisited

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

I wrote a brief post on a study of Pythagorean ratio rules and brain function, based solely upon the abstract of the article. Now I've read the article, and can answer some of the questions posed by me and others. Most importantly, the authors did not really test for Pythagorean ratio rules. Here is their justification:

For centuries after Pythagoras, his tuning system based on exact perfect consonances predominated. As Western music increased in complexity and range, however, slight modifications to the Pythagorean scale became necessary to preserve consistently tuned intervals across extremely large intervals (greater than one or two octaves) and small ones (half steps and intervals that are difficult to standardize using Pythagorean tuning). The difficulty arising from the increased range is apparent when one goes through 12 perfect fifths, for example, from the note C to a C seven octaves higher: the ratio of the harmonic to the fundamental starting tone is (3/2)^12=129.746. Going from a C to one seven octaves higher via the octave route, however, produces a tone with a frequency that has a ratio (2/1)^7 = 128 times higher than the starting tone. This small difference ultimately requires some temperament or modification of pure harmonic intervals to construct and tune instruments that can play pieces written with tones that span multiple octaves. Numerous fixes or temperaments for this problem have been devised over the centuries[1]. The one used almost universally today is known as equal temperament, inwhich the discrepancy of 1.746 is divided by narrowing each of the 12 previously perfect fifths in the seven-octave span, resulting in the 12 notes of the chromatic scale. Thus in equal temperament the fifths are no longer perfect, only close.

With this caveat of equal tempering – the temperament in which Western listeners are accustomed to hearing music – informing our search for neural correlates to the Pythagorean rules, we chose to study the neural activation pattern associated with hearing the perfect [sic] fifth (1.498:1), major sixth (1.682:1) and major seventh (1.888:1).

(The footnote cites Helmholtz. They couldn't find something a little more contemporary?) In addition, all of the "musician" participants were piano performance majors, which could bias certain brain responses to muscle memory activity. The purpose of this study was hidden from the participants, by throwing the intervals in after another listening test on sentences and progressions (probably like Steinbeis and Koelsch's experiment.) Overall, I believe the authors over-reached by claiming to test Pythagorean ratio rules. I believe they did find something about consonance and dissonance, but not specific to frequency ratios. Yet again, scientists really need to consult with theorists, so they don't make this kind of mistake. I think Tenney's A History of Consonance and Dissonance would be a great source of hypotheses to test.

Foss, AL. "Neural correlates of the Pythagorean ratio rules." Neuroreport 18/15 (October 2007) 1521-1525.

Friday, October 26, 2007

FriPod: Empty Sleep

I'm feeling very empty and tired right now.

1. "Empty" by The Cranberries on No Need to Argue. Amazon MP3.
2. "Empty Bed Blues" performed by Bessie Smith.
3. "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables" by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, and Herbert Kretzmer from the Les Miserables Original Broadway Cast recording. Amazon MP3.
4. "Come, Heavy Sleep" by John Dowland, performed by Sting on Songs From the Labyrinth. Amazon MP3.
5. "Dreaming While You Sleep" by Genesis on We Can't Dance.
6. "Nowell, Nowell: Out of your Sleep" performed by the Indianapolis Christ Church Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys. Amazon MP3.
7. "Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty" by Maurice Ravel, performed by Christopher Parkening. Amazon MP3.
8. "Sleeping with the Television On" by Billy Joel.
9. "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" by Leon Rene, Otis Rene, and Clarence Muse; performed by Louis Armstrong. Amazon MP3.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Meme: Find me

Chad shares a new meme, finding 5 search items that produce your own blog as the first result. Here are mine:

1. Musical Perceptions (duh!)
2. Eighteen Days till Halloween (I've gotten a surprising number of hits from the MySpace News link on this story)
3. Purpose of Music
4. Quietest place on earth
5. Solfege battles

Scores just want to be free

Slashdot reports that Project Gutenberg has volunteered to host IMSLP's catalog. What isn't clear is who will vet the legality of the scores, since Project Gutenberg has said it will host "as much [...] as is legally possible" and says that many of the scores mentioned in Universal Edition's cease and desist letter could also be hosted. The quote ends with "when the legalities have finally been worked out." So who will be working out the legalities? IMSLP's creator doesn't have the time or resources, that is why he closed down the database. And Tim points out all of the difficulties in investigating copyright legality. I won't get too excited until more clarification is provided.

In the meantime, Bob Kosovsky of the Music Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has provided some other sources of public domain scores:

Sheet Music Archive

Choral Public Domain Library
Chopin Early Editions
Werner Icking Music Archive
Indiana University's William and Gayle Cook Music Library, Variations
Eastman School of Music's Sibley Music Library, this service will take requests for public domain scores, putting all legal requests up on the website.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Intelligible scores

One of the Episcopal blogs is having a debate on the meaning of scripture. One person, William Witt, wrote a comment stating that Scripture is inherently intelligible. Thus any "competent reader" will agree on the meaning of a given text (something that any theological discussion will prove false almost immediately). What I found interesting was a second comment Mr. Witt made, defending his assertion against a very persuasive argument by Father Kimel. In this second comment, Mr. Witt uses Mozart as an analogy.

To provide a parallel example, the score of a Mozart symphony has an inherent intelligibility to those who know how to read music, and especially to those who are trained classical musicians. To me, who has a minimal ability to read music, and no musical training whatsoever, it is just notes on a page. However, this does not mean that even my amateur ears cannot pick out a Mozart symphony when I hear it played--at least those pieces with which I am familiar.

The intelligibility, however, is not provided by the listener, nor even by the classically trained symphony. Mozart who was, of course, part of a musical tradition himself, provided the intelligibility, and the trained musician does his best to be faithful to the text. Should a new Mozart score be discovered, trained musicians could play it because of its inherent intelligibility.

None of this has anything to do with “private judgment.” Someone (either with or without the relevant musical skills), who just decides to wing it as he goes along rather than follow the score, is not “playing Mozart.” Someone with amateur skills, who does her best to follow the score, will nonetheless be playing Mozart, even if not with the adequacy of a classically trained musician.

In both cases, the inherent intelligibility is in the text. In the former, it is ignored. In the latter, it is revealed. The question of whether or not the musician correctly interprets the text is not provided either by the private musician, or even by the skilled guild of classical musicians. It is only because the text has an inherent intelligibility that skilled (or even unskilled) musicians can listen to a performance, and respond: “That is (or is not) Mozart.”

I'm not going to attempt to argue about Scripture, but Witt's claims about Mozart were perplexing. It comes down to what a musical score is, and what relationship it has to a musical performance. Is the score of a Mozart symphony the actual symphony, or instructions on how to perform the symphony? I would say the latter. I disagree that the intelligibility of a performance "is not provided by the listener, nor even by the classically trained symphony." Those are exactly who determine the quality of the performance, with most of the emphasis on the listener. Thus to some listeners a Mozart symphony has no intelligibility, just as to some listeners a Schoenberg symphony has no coherence.

As for the dividing line between the performance being "Mozart" or "not Mozart," I think it is much more nuanced than Mr. Witt makes it. I've heard improvisations that are very much in the style of Mozart. Since they are inspired by Mozart's compositions, do they not have some "Mozart" in them? I've also heard performances of Mozart's compositions that were not played in the style that Mozart envisioned, and therefore did not sound like Mozart. Are they still "Mozart?" I'd argue that both of these situations have some "Mozart" as long as the listener (me) still perceives Mozart's influence (his intelligibility?).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Strange Fruit

Today the family went to a pumpkin patch/apple orchard. While browsing through the store for caramel apples, I saw that they were selling tubs of persimmon pulp. I've been curious about persimmons for awhile now, from an Eating the Alphabet book and various roadside farm stands advertising it. And this season the local ice cream parlor has made homemade persimmon ice cream, intriguing me further. So I bought a tub of the pulp, and made persimmon pudding for tonight's dessert. It was incredible, I can't believe I'd been missing this delicacy my whole life. Go get some diaspyros virginiana, "food of the gods," and enjoy this Thanksgiving treat now.

Dangerous Music

First it was scary musicologists trying to cross the border. Now, indie rock is trying to invade, only to be stopped by the brave souls of the DHS. Good thing, as indie rock is trying to segregate our musical culture. If Death Cab for Cutie isn't kept out of our fair land, Michael Jackson will become even whiter.

Corporations 5,312 - Public Interest 2

Scott Strader informed me that the International Music Score Library Project has gone down. Follow the link to find out the details of Universal Edition's Cease and Desist and the IMSLP owner's decisions. I had just pointed my students to this resource last week, so they could practice dictations while on break, away from the music library. And my students have access to a good score library for most weeks of the year. What about those musicians and music lovers who don't have academic affiliations? This is very sad and I hope some other institutions, especially groups like CMS, AMS, SMT, and MENC, do take up the mantle to provide a fully legal version.

Friday, October 19, 2007

FriPod: Beginnings and Endings

1. "Begin the Beguine" by Cole Porter, performed by Art Tatum. Amazon MP3.
2. "The Beginning of a Friendship" by John Williams, from the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial soundtrack.
3. "New Beginning" written and performed by Tracy Chapman on New Beginning. Amazon CD.
4. "Out Where the Blue Begins" by Graff, McHugh, and Grant; performed by Henry "Red" Allen And His Orchestra.
5. "End Credits" by John Williams, from the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial soundtrack.
6. "The End of a Love Affair" by E.C. Redding, performed by Wynton Marsalis on Popular Songs: The Best Of Wynton Marsalis. Amazon MP3 of Kenny Dorham Quartet version.
7. "The End of All Things" by Howard Shore on the Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King soundtrack.
8. "End Titles" by John Corigliano on the Red Violin soundtrack.
9. "Endless Parade" by Harrison Birtwistle, performed by Hakan Hardenberger.
10. "Lands End" performed by Clifford Brown on Jazz 'Round Midnight. Amazon MP3.
11. Quartet for the End of Time by Olivier Messiaen, performed by (a) New York Philomusica Chamber Ensemble, (b) Chamber Music Northwest. Amazon MP3 of movement 5, my favorite.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eighteen Days till Halloween

I haven't written about my daughter the author in a while. She wrote a Halloween tale I want to share. Unfortunately I don't yet have the pictures her little brother drew.

Mommy spider whispering something to her eighteen babies so that no ones ear can hear. Mommy werewolf howled at the moon so all seventeen pups really could hear. Mommy vampire sat there quietly watching her sixteen little ones trying to quietly hunt. Mommy vampire bat fluttering quietly as her fifteen babies tried to not make a sound on their evening hunt. Mommy ghost and her fourteen kids making such a racket going through walls. Mommy ghoul went chompity chomp with her thirteen children very loudly. Mommy Frankenstein moaned softly in to the wind her twelve babies copied they moaned loudly in to the wind. Mommy dragon flew gracefully her eleven children followed not making a peep hoping not to be seen. Mommy dwarf and her ten kids hurried along making such a racket they woke everyone from their sleep. Mommy skeleton rattled her bones loudly her nine children copied and rattled their bones quietly. Mommy troll grunted and groaned soft and loud her eight kids moaned and groaned and grunted. Mommy giant stomped her feet her seven kids stomped it made noise like thunder. Mommy witch cackled as her six kids did a very noisy trick. Mommy demon burned some trees with one big crack her five kids burned some bushes with one small ssssssss. Mommy mummy is moaning, groaning, grunting and squealing her kids only moan and groan but what a racket did those mummys make. Mommy devil and her three kids were trying to be very quiet on that night of hunting hopes and spirits. Mommy cat said as her two kittens played we must meow loudly so they did. Mommy pumpkin and her one little pumpkin just sat there not making a peep. Well now you read about the mommy monsters and baby monsters they all want to say BOO!

Monday, October 15, 2007


From Stephen Smith's New York Times review:

Brass intonation, mostly secure throughout, fell apart during the familiar opening toccata of Monteverdi’s opera “Orfeo.” Execution improved when the trumpeters switched to cornettos, narrow wooden horns that provided more flexibility but less heft. For anyone seeking an explanation for the invention of the modern trumpet, here it was.

Playlist for Chickens

Patty has challenged me to come up with a good playlist for egg-layers. I'll go with:

1. Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. Get the hens all strutting about the power of birds, especially if they are more familiar with the Fantasia 2000 version than the ballet version. Laying waste to acres of forest is more empowering than being kidnapped by a sorcerer.

2. "Blackbird Variations" by Robert Dennis, performed by the American Brass Quintet on New American Brass.

3. "The Birds Will Still Be Singing" from Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet's collaboration, The Juliet Letters.

4. Anything performed by eighth blackbird.

5. Maybe Spring and Summer from the various 4 seasons works by Vivaldi, Piazzola, etc.

6. Likewise Copland's Appalachian Spring.

7. And Crumb's Music for A Summer Evening.

8. And Summer Music for Woodwind Quintet by Samuel Barber.

9. Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, "Pastoral."

10. Chabrier's Suite Pastorale.

I deliberately stuck with only classical music, based on the article's findings. What other music will make the hens lay more eggs?

Post-Classical Symposium

DePauw University's School of Music will be hosting a symposium on Post-Classical music education next month (November 30-December 1). Members of ensemble-in-residence eighth blackbird will be involved, along with Joseph Horowitz and Greg Sandow. Symposium organizer Eric Edberg has blogged about the symposium, though unfortunately the blog he created for the symposium seems to be offline. But I thought I'd mention the symposium now because Stephen Brookes has written an article about Horowitz's Post-Classical Ensemble in the Washington Post, thoughtfully reproduced on his own blog. The idea of re-energizing concerts is good, but it must take into account the fact that many classical music lovers like the ritualized atmosphere of the average concert, with prescribed costumes and/or behavior. And that there is nothing wrong with that attitude. The difficulty comes in balancing the desires of the "old" audience with the "new" audience, as is shown in Eric's own experiment with a post-classical concert environment (read the comments). I think Horowitz's programming ideas are very interesting and seem to be successful, as is the Bang-on-a-Can model, and multitudes of other ideas. Alex Ross' latest New Yorker article talks about how the internet has been used in a wide variety of ways to promote music (sadly he doesn't give me any link-love). Much like the Long Tail concept in music publishing, I think many musical ensembles can adapt to the Long Tail concept by aiming for niche audiences. Not all ensembles need to do the same thing, there is no one magic pill that will work for all audiences. That is the frustration I get reading some of the polemics by Norman Lebrecht and Greg Sandow, that they portray an idea that there is one concept of "classical" that has died or is dying, and only they can save it. This is probably unfair, but it is still the impression I get. So, what are your thoughts on Post-Classical music composition/programming/education/etc?

Friday, October 12, 2007

FriPod: Hearts

1. "Heart and Soul" by Hoagy Carmichael, performed by Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra. The old classic, learned by every piano student, has lyrics that can be taken as light and fun or as full of angst: fell in love madly, like a fool, his heart and soul have been stolen (does he want them back?) [The linked MP3 is of the Indianapolis-based Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra]

2. "A Heart Full of Love" from Les Miserables Original Broadway soundtrack. A sad love triangle, I find myself empathizing with Eponine.

3. "Heart, We Will Forget Him" by Aaron Copland, performed by Arleen Augér on Arleen Auger, American Soprano. From Copland's Emily Dickinson songs, I'm not ready for the darkness of this one.

4. "Heartache Tonight" written and performed by The Eagles on Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 2. "There's nothing we can do." "Everybody wants to touch somebody." Truth is found in California country rock.

5. "Hold On My Heart" written and performed by Genesis on We Can't Dance. While I really liked the This American Life episode that showed Phil Collins talking about heart-break songs, I find myself increasingly annoyed by his work. This song, however, is one of the more tolerable ballads, excepting Tony Banks' soulless keyboards.

6. "I'll Follow My Secret Heart" by Noel Coward, performed by Arleen Augér on Arleen Auger, American Soprano. Why keep it secret? I've been learning that open vulnerability is a good thing.

7. "My Foolish Heart" by Victor Young, performed by Bill Evans on Waltz for Debby. This performance gets all of the nuances, from hope to fear, love to anger, joy to sadness.

8. "My Heart" by Lilian Armstrong, performed by Louis Armstrong on The Hot Fives & Sevens, Vol. 1. Lil was Louis' second wife and a fine jazz musician in her own right. This Dixie styled piece gives some bounce that was missing from this playlist.

9. "Of One Heart, Of One Mind" by James Horner, from A Beautiful Mind soundtrack. I like this cut, especially since it quotes the title song. How much can a heart stand? How do changes in the mind affect two hearts?

10. "Piece of My Heart" by Rogovoy and Burns, performed by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company. In the Wikipedia article, Ellen Willis is quoted giving two different interpretations: "When Franklin sings it, it is a challenge: no matter what you do to me, I will not let you destroy my ability to be human, to love. Joplin seems rather to be saying, surely if I keep taking this, if I keep setting an example of love and forgiveness, surely he has to understand, change, give me back what I have given." I think both views can coexist, self preservation and hope.

11. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (and reprise) by Lennon and McCartney, performed by The Beatles on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. These are not about the heart, but instead are a prologue and conclusion to the fake concert.

12. "Shape of My Heart" written and performed by Sting on Ten Summoner's Tales. The lyrics suggest that we have control of our own heart, it isn't controlled by fate (as represented by the cards). But the mask isn't good news, perhaps he is fooling himself that the cards don't show the shape of his heart.

13. "Thy rebuke hath broken His heart" from Messiah by George Handel, performed by John Aler; Andrew Davis, Toronto Symphony, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. I found this blog post that has some relevance to my thoughts right now.

14. "Two Hearts" by Lamont Dozier and Phil Collins, performed by Phil Collins on Serious Hits...Live! Ack.

15. "Unchain My Heart" by Teddy Powell and Robert Sharp, Jr., performed by Ray Charles on Ray! Ray's woman has left him, but he feels she hasn't released his love. This is tricky, when two hearts have been entwined. How do they become separate, especially when one person leaves the other? Is Ray's heart his own responsibility, that he should unchain his own heart? Or does his ex-lover still have control that she needs to relinquish? Does she need to give him permission to stop loving her? Is it possible to stop loving someone?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I... Like Candy

Stop me if you've heard this one: four French psychologists walk into a candy store... Okay, really the four psychologists took over the background music for a candy store, creating three different conditions for the sixty 12-14 year-olds that came into the store. One third of the customers was exposed to Top 40 music. One third was exposed to no music. And one third was exposed to music from cartoons. The cartoon music came from shows like Captain Flame, Candy, and Olive & Tom. (The only video I could find of Captain Flame was the German version, called Captain Future). The study concluded that the teenagers spent more time in the store when the cartoon music was played, but did not spend any more money than the other music condition. It's odd that the cartoon music came from 80's cartoons, rather than contemporary cartoons. I'll look more into why that is.

H. Le Guellec et al (2007). "Cartoon music in a candy store: a field experiment." Psychological Reports 100, 1255-1258.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Cognitive Daily on Absolute Pitch.
One point about this study that Dave didn't emphasize is the bimodal distribution. Many people, myself included, regard absolute pitch as an ability that exists on a continuum. But most of the participants of this study either had no AP ability, or had very strong AP ability. Some of this might be due to the task, unlike the Levitin study that showed how many people can sing their favorite music within a semitone of the correct key.

Mind Hacks on epilepsy in rap music.

The Last Protestant Dinosaur on 20 ways to make the Episcopal liturgy more welcoming. Points 5, 6, 9, 15, 16, and 20 are about the music. One quote: "THE GLORIA (ack, ick,) this is praise? no, this is impenetrable dogma set to shitty music."
I like the Gloria's from most of the masses sung at the cathedral. And priests have such potty mouths!

The Chicago Cultural Center is hosting a discussion on the music industry going green.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Messiaen the Theologian

International Conference 'Messiaen the Theologian'

Friday 12 and Saturday 13 October 2007

The Boston University Messiaen Project [BUMP] and are hosting an international conference 'Messiaen the Theologian' at Boston University on 12 & 13 October, 2007. As we move to the centenary of Messiaen's birth (born 10 December 1908), this conference will explore one of the least understood and least discussed aspects of the composer. We will explore Messiaen's theological training, the context of Catholic theology in France in the twentieth century and his personal theology as it is expressed in his music.

This free conference includes a recital of music by Messiaen and Debussy, and a screening of "Apparition of the Eternal Church" by Paul Festa.

The Critics Speak

A public conversation with music critics Tim Page (The Washington Post) & Anthony Tommasini (The New York Times)

Sunday, 14 October 2007
Hill Hall Auditorium
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Saturday, October 06, 2007

End Bird Discrimination Now!

In Science's letters, Alex Ross saw some older research on birds listening to music mentioned. I decided to read the original articles. In the 1999 study, Keio University psychologists Watanabe and Sato trained Javanese sparrows within two groups. One group of four birds was encouraged to stand on their response perch only when Bach's French Suite, BWV 816, was played. They received a food reward when they moved to the response perch when the Bach was played, and were punished with a blackout of the lights if they landed on the response perch when Schoenberg's Suite Op. 25 was played. The other group of three birds was trained in the opposite direction, encouraged to respond to Schoenberg's Suite. This training lasted through a minimum 40 successful trials for each bird, until an 80% correct response ratio was achieved. One bird in each group was not able to achieve 80% correct response ratios within 60 sessions, and were dropped from further testing.

After this training the five remaining birds were exposed to Bach's Orchestral Suite, BWV 1068, and Schoenberg's Five Orchestra Pieces Op. 16. Positive food reinforcement continued for each relevant group, and all but one bird were able to discriminate the new Bach and Schoenberg to a significant level. That one bird who couldn't discriminate was in the Bach group. A second test replaced the Bach music with Vivaldi's Violin Concert in A minor, RV 356, and Schoenberg's music with Elliott Carter's Variations for Orchestra (1955). All five birds were able to distinguish between these new pieces successfully. The authors note here that a 1984 study by Porter and Neuringer showed that pigeons were able to generalize from Bach to Buxtehude and from Stravinsky to Carter and Piston.

Another interesting result was that two birds who had not shown any preference between Bach/Vivaldi and Schoenberg/Carter were still able learn to discriminate between the two types of music. Thus the lack of preference was not from a lack of ability to tell the difference, but rather from personal taste.

S. Watanabe and K. Sato, "Discriminative stimulus properties of music in Java sparrows." Behavioural Processes, 47 (1999), 53-57.

Friday, October 05, 2007

FriPod: States

1. "Hotel California" written and performed by The Eagles on Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 2.
2. Three Places in New England - 2. "Putnam's Camp, Redding, Connecticut" by Charles Ives, performed by (a) the Philadelphia Orchestra, and (b) San Francisco Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas.
3. "Florida Stomp" by Battle, Eldridge, and Hart; performed by Roy Eldridge on Little Jazz.
4. "Georgia Grind" by A. Williams, performed by Louis Armstrong on The Hot Fives & Sevens, Vol. 1.
5. "Georgia on my mind" by Hoagy Carmichael, performed by Ray Charles (twice) on Ray!
6. "Sweet Georgia Brown" by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard, and Kenneth Casey; performed by (a) Bud Powell on Jazz Giant and (b) Ella Fitzgerald on Compact Jazz.
7. "(Back Home Again in) Indiana" by Ballard McDonald and James Hanley, performed by (a) Art Tatum on Solos (1940) and (b) Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, and Clark Terry on The Trumpet Kings at Montreux.
8. "The Lost Souls (Of Southern Louisiana)" performed by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band on Open Up (Whatcha Gonna Do For the Rest of Your Life?)
9. "Louisiana/Field Song from Senegal" traditional.
10. "Bright Mississippi" written and performed by Thelonious Monk (quartet) on Monk's Dream.
11. "Stop in Nevada" written and performed by Billy Joel on Piano Man.
12. "New York State of Mind" written and performed by Billy Joel on Turnstiles.
13. "Tennessee Waltz / Tennessee Mazurka" by Redd Stewart & Pee Wee King, performed by The Chieftains with Tom Jones on The Long Black Veil.
14. "Moonlight in Vermont" by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong on Jazz Masters 24.
15. "I'm Coming Virginia" by Will Marion Cook, performed by Benny Goodman on Live at Carnegie Hall.
16. "Tides of Washington Bridge" by the Clogs on Lantern.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New digs

eighth blackbird's Tim Munro has posted pictures from their residency here at DePauw last week. You can see several parts of our new building, including the Great Hall facing towards the doors to our main performance stage, the small rehearsal room (populated by various students and colleague Eric Edberg), and two shots of the large rehearsal room. I completely agree with Tim that the residency has started wonderfully. The students have been very charged from working with these great musicians, and the convocation on the business side of music was very eye-opening.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pythagoras in the Brain

Here's an interesting cognitive study: A.H. Foss et al used fMRI (the brain scans in the scary tunnel that show blood flow) with exposure to various intervals based upon the Pythagoras ratios. Quick review of Pythagorean ratio rules: musical intervals can be described as ratios of the frequencies of the two pitches. Those ratios that are simplest (2:1, 3:2, 4:3, etc.) correspond with the intervals that Western civilization has judged as the most pleasant (octave, perfect fifth, perfect fourth), while the dissonant intervals of our culture (major seventh, minor second, tritone, etc.) have more complex ratios (243:128, 16:15, 45:32, etc.). The fMRI tests found that in trained musicians, five areas of the brain show activity with the interval performances, showing more activity as intervals progress from perfect consonances to imperfect consonances to dissonances. These five areas of the brain are the inferior frontal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus (location of the primary auditory cortex), medial frontal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, and anterior cingulate (rational cognition). Nonmusicians (that horrible term used in music cognition to describe a population of listeners that have not had training in music) only had one area of their brain activated in the same consonance/dissonance pattern: the right inferior frontal gyrus.

I haven't yet had a chance to read the full article to see whether the intervals were actually played in just intonation, how many intervals were played, and how many participants were in the study (fMRI studies usually have smaller numbers due to the expense of MRI time). If the intervals were played in equal temperament, that would go against the whole ratio-rule interpretation.

AH Foss, EL Altschuler, and KH James. "Neural correlates of the Pythagorean ratio rules." Neuroreport 18, no. 15 (2007), 1521-1525.

Friday, September 28, 2007

FriPod: Be the Beginning

1. "BE JUST!" by Martin Bresnick, performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars on The Essential Martin Bresnick.

2. "Be with you" written and performed by U2, a cool live version with guest artists (including a choir!) joining in.

3. "Beatam Me Dicent a 6" by Heinrich Finck, performed by the Copenhagen Cornetto & Sackbutts with Vocal Group Ars Nova on Winds and Voices 1: at the Court of King Christian III.

4. Beatrice et Benedicte: Overture by Hector Berlioz, performed by Yuri Temirkanov and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

5. "Beats Brand X" by Alex Temple, 12 March 2007 performance.

6. "Beautiful" by Steven Sondheim, performed by Bernadette Peters the actress who plays George's mother on Sunday in the Park with George original Broadway cast.

7. "The Beautiful Galathea" by Franz von Suppé, performed by the John Foster Black Dyke Mills Band on Overtures.

8. "Before I Gaze At You Again" by Frederick Loewe, performed by Arleen Augér on Arleen Auger, American Soprano.

9. "Begin The Beguine" by Cole Porter, performed by Art Tatum on Solos (1940).

10. "The Beginning of a Friendship" by John Williams, on the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial - Remastered & Expanded soundtrack.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Theorists in the wild

Uh oh, we're being observed.

How singers are like drummers

No, it isn't the start of a joke (though that would be a good opening). Previously I wrote about percussionists that influence the perception of duration through physical gestures. Another study shows how vocalists use head movement and facial gestures to influence the perception of melodic intervals. Listeners were asked to rate the size of ascending intervals that three performers sang. Three physical movements of the singers were measured: head displacement, eyebrow displacement, and lip displacement. All three movements correlated with the size of the intervals, so the singers moved their heads, eyebrows, and lips more with bigger intervals. These movements also influenced the listeners' ratings of interval size, so a bigger physical movement made the listener rate the interval as larger.

William Forde Thompson and Frank A. Russo, "Facing the Music," Psychological Science Vol. 18 no. 9(Sept. 2007), 756-757.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

drug-induced synaesthesia?

Mind Hacks directs us to a Wired article on Oliver Sacks and his forthcoming book on music neurology. Sacks describes how Monteverdi's Vespers allowed him to see an indigo hue that he had only seen through drugs. A warning label will now be required on all recordings of music from the Seconda Prattica.

Monday, September 24, 2007

RIP Bruce Benward

The Society for Music Theory just announced that Bruce Benward, the most wealthy music theorist in the United States, died a week ago. I have a great memory of him visiting Eastman while I was a grad student. He and Bob Gauldin started reminiscing about being students at Eastman back in the 40's, and it was amazing how much was the same as my own experiences, even if the names and theories changed. I'll post the eulogy that they sent out:
Dr. Bruce Benward, an eminent pedagogue and influential scholar, died on September 15, 2007 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He served as professor of music theory for 30 years at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music. Prior to that, he spent two decades as professor of music and chair of the Music Department at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Benward also served as Florida State University’s distinguished visiting professor of music theory in 1992. He earned his master’s degree from Indiana University in 1943 and his Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music in 1950.

During his career, Benward published several landmark music theory textbooks, including Music in Theory and Practice, Ear Training: A Technique for Listening, Sightsinging Complete, and Practical Beginning Theory: A Fundamentals Worktext. He is credited for being on the forefront of computer-assisted music instruction, having authored or coauthored several pieces of computer software. Throughout his career, he made presentations at conferences and workshops across the country for various professional organizations. In 1995, he founded the Macro Analysis Creative Research Organization, an organization dedicated to music theory pedagogy.

Among his many honors, Benward received the Trochos research grant from the IBM Corporation in 1985 for the development of instructional programs for microcomputers. He was awarded the Joe Wyatt Challenge Award in 1991 and was listed among 100 other technological leaders. At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he was voted as one of the “Top 100 Educators.”

As an examiner for the National Association of Schools of Music, Benward visited more than 50 accredited universities in the United States. He served on the editorial boards for Computers in Music Research, College Music Symposium, Journal of Music Theory Pedagogy, and Schirmer Books. Benward also served as president of the National Association of Music Schools of State Universities.

Schenker's tonality, Part I

Yesterday I realized that it has been eight years since I thoroughly reviewed the various theories of tonality, when I was studying for my qualifying exams. So I thought I'd create a regular series of posts going through the details of some theories, though the posting schedule will definitely be aperiodic. First I will look at Heinrich Schenker's theory of tonality, as explained in his final monograph, Free Composition.

First, there was the tone. This tone creates overtones, the images of which create the triadic chord, called the Chord of Nature. Most contemporary theorists ignore the chord of nature part of Schenker's theory, for reasons that I listed here. Instead, we accept that Schenker's tonality is based upon the triad, and upon major or minor modes. These postulates are accepted because the music literature of 1600-1880(ish) exhibit this behavior and the analyses based upon Schenker's theory work with this starting postulate. Recent theories suggest that jazz tonality is based upon the seventh chord rather than the triad.

This triadic chord is unfolded through time by stepwise descending motion in the upper voice, from either the third or fifth* of the chord to the root tonic, which Schenker calls the fundamental tone**. Schenker equates this melodic motion, the fundamental line(Urlinie) with our own life-impulses, striving towards a goal. The melodic motion is accompanied by an arpeggiation in the lower voice up a fifth and back down again, as a foundational counterpoint. Why the fifth? From the overtone series, but also from contrapuntal practice: in three-voice strict counterpoint, if the closing scale degrees 2 and 7 are in upper voices, only scale degree 5 is allowable to complete the triad, and was the only leaping bass line found at the close (same as a cadence) in modal counterpoint.

Schenker has a few terms for this counterpoint: background, fundamental structure (Ursatz), and diatony. This fundamental structure is further expanded through middleground and foreground levels by transformations, prolongations, and elaborations, until the actual musical composition is realized (the surface level). The fundamental structure provides the unity, the primary identity of the tonal piece, by marking the goal and the direct path to that goal. Schenker defines "tonality" as the sum of the fundamental structure with all the elaborations and prolongations.

I'll stop here for the first part, quoting from p. 5 of Free Composition:
As the image of our life-motion, music can approach a state of objectivity, never, of course, to the extent that it need abandon its own specific nature as an art. Thus, it may almost evoke pictures or seem to be endowed with speech; it may pursue its course by means of associations, references, and connectives; it may use repetitions of the same tonal succession to express different meanings; it may simulate expectation, preparation, surprise, disappointment, patience, impatience, and humor. Because these comparisons are of a biological nature, and are generated organically, music is never comparable to mathematics or to architecture, but only to language, a kind of tonal language.

Next time I will describe dissonance as it affects the fundamental structure, and begin to explain the transformations that elaborate this fundamental structure.

* Schenker does allow for the traversal of an octave, from root down to root, but later analyses show that he doesn't think it is very common.
**Or at least that is how Ernst Oster translates it from the german.