Friday, February 29, 2008

FriPod: Leap Day

1. "The Leap" by Miles Davis on Volume One.
2. "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins on Serious Hits... Live!
3. "At the End of the Day" and "One Day More" from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer on the Original Broadway Soundtrack.
4. "Cheap Day Return" by Jethro Tull on Aqualung.
5. Days 1 through 6 of The Creation by Joseph Haydn, performed by John Eliot Gardiner with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists.
6. "Day Dream" by Billy Strayhorn, performed by Duke Ellington Orchestra on The Best Of Duke Ellington: Centennial Edition.
7. "A Day in the Life" by Lennon/McCartney, performed by the Beatles on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
8. "The Day Off" from Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim [don't ban it!], the original Broadway cast.
9. "The Day Revisited" by Kyle Gann, performed by Sarah Cahill, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and Bernard Gann, on Private Dances.
10. "Dirty Day" by U2 on Zooropa.
11. "Great Day" arranged by Brazeal Dennard, performed by the Lawrence University Concert Choir on Music of the Americas.
12. "I've Loved These Days" by Billy Joel on Turnstiles.
13. "Isn't This a Lovely Day" by Irving Berlin, performed by Ella Fitzgerald on Jazz Masters 24.
14. "Long Day" by Spang A Lang on Spang A Lang.
15. "A New Day" by Booker Little on We Speak.
16. "Seven Days" by Sting on Ten Summoner's Tales.
17. "Some Days are Better than Others" by U2 on Zooropa.
18. "Some Day My Prince Will Come" by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey, performed by a) the Chick Corea Akoustic Band; b) Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (arr. by Marty Robinson).
19. "That'll Be the Day" by Buddy Holly & the Crickets on The "Chirping" Crickets.
20. "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day" performed by the Indianapolis Christ Church Cathedral Choir of Men & Boys on Sing, Choir of Angels.
21. "What a Diff'rence a Day Made" by Maria Grever, performed by Chet Baker on Chet Baker With Strings.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

McCain = Wagner?

Josh Marshall, leader of the TPM media empire, was called out by his readers for improperly using Wagner as an analogy for the McCain strategy:

The core is to drill a handful of key adjectives into the public mind about Barack Obama: Muslim, anti-American, BLACK, terrorist, Arab. Maybe a little hustler and shifty thrown in, but we'll have to see. The details and specific arguments are sort of beside the point. They're like the libretto in a Wagner opera, nice for some narrative structure. But it's the score that's the real essence of it, the point of the whole exercise.
Here is the update:
Late Update: A few insightful readers have noted that Wagner is perhaps not the best illustration of my libretto to score metaphor since Wagner is one of the few major composers -- I'm actually not sure there are any others -- to write his own libretti. Perhaps my blind spot is a product of my listening to Wagner without knowing German. In any case, I think my general point remains valid. Perhaps I should have picked on Verdi. But for me nothing -- nothing in opera at least -- compares to Wagner.
Josh understandably misses the major point. It isn't that Wagner wrote his own libretti, but that Wagner considered the music, drama, poetry, and art design to be all equal in creating the great artwork he called Gesamtkunstwerk. The score reflects nuances in drama, as shown by Leitmotifs and associative keys. If you want to pick on meaningless opera libretti, lets go with Rossini, Donizetti, or Josh's second choice, Verdi.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Turn it up!

The latest issue of the Journal of Speech and Language Hearing Research has an article on the loudness of on-stage loudspeakers (monitors) used by musicians to hear themselves. Jeremy Federman and Todd Ricketts had professional singers adjust two types of monitors to two loudness levels. The two types of monitors were floor speakers and in-ear buds, the two levels were minimum acceptable listening level (MALL) and preferred listening levels (PLL). You can imagine this, having your stereo at the softest possible level that you can still hear, but won't disturb your spouse, that is a MALL. But when you crank it up so you can really hear it, that is a PLL. PLLs and MALLs were set by each musician listening to their own voice. Other musical sources and crowd noise simulations were set at different levels by the scientists.

The graph at top shows that in-ear buds were set consistently at lower levels than floor monitors, about .6 dB, except the left-most condition The different sets of bars show different ratios of Overall Music Level (OML) and Crowd Noise (CN), so the outlier is when the overall music level was lowest (92 dB) and there was no crowd noise. But ANOVAs revealed a significant difference between monitor types overall, with no significant effect of the overall loudness or trial condition.

The authors have a good caution though:
Although a statistically significant result was observed between the two monitor types for PLL, the actual mean difference of ~0.6 dB (see mean data in Figure 2) could be regarded as nonsignificant in a real-world consideration of noise exposure recommendations. For this study, a 3 dB or greater difference in listening levels between monitor types (i.e., NIOSH time-weighted average) would have been considered functionally significant (as opposed to statistically significant) because such a result would potentially double allowable real-world exposure time based on NIOSH recommendations. The statistical significance of the findings is related to the large number of samples involved in statistical analysis.

It is refreshing to see a study that admits the different between statistical significance and actionable significance. A serious result from this study is the average dB of MALLs: 109.0 dB for floor monitors and 103.2 dB for in-ear buds. OSHA safety regulations would allow exposure to 105 dB for 1 hour each day before serious damage might occur to hearing. Most amplified shows last considerably longer than one hour, especially when pre-show soundchecks are included. So to you amplified musicians out there, invest in a good pair of sound-attenuating in-ear monitors and work with a hearing expert to get them fitted well. That can double or quadruple the amount of time you can safely listen to yourself play!

Update: Daniel Wolf shows that classical musicians are also in danger. I had a trumpet teacher who always carried sets of ear plugs in his case, which he would hand out to the violists or 2nd violinists sitting in front of him.

J. Federman and T. Ricketts, "Preferred and Minimum Acceptable Listening Levels for Musicians While Using Floor and In-Ear Monitors," Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, Vol 51 (Feb. 2008), 147-159.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

He's Affected

Chandler Branch broadcasts a humorous take on the Mozart Effect.

LISZT EFFECT: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never really says anything important.
BRUCKNER EFFECT: Child speaks very slowly and repeats himself frequently. Gains reputation for profundity.
WAGNER EFFECT: Child becomes a megalomaniac. May eventually marry his sister.
MAHLER EFFECT: Child continually screams - at great length and volume that he’s dying.
SCHOENBERG EFFECT: Child never repeats a word until he’s used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talks backwards. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child blames them for their inability to understand him.
BABBITT EFFECT: Child gibbers nonsense all the time. Eventually, people stop listening to him. Child doesn’t care because all his playmates think he’s cool.
IVES EFFECT: the child develops a remarkable ability to carry on several separate conversations at once.
GLASS EFFECT: the child tends to repeat himself over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
STRAVINSKY EFFECT: the child is prone to savage, guttural and profane outbursts that often lead to fighting and pandemonium in the preschool.
BRAHMS EFFECT: the child is able to speak beautifully as long as his sentences contain a multiple of three words (3, 6, 9, 12, etc). However, his sentences containing 4 or 8 words are strangely uninspired.
To which I'd add the RZEWSKI EFFECT: the child tells the teacher that s/he is a victim of capitalist society in 36 different ways.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

And here I just ate Chinese

Like many other classical music bloggers, I am blocked in China. I'm disappointed, but I'll have to think more about the idea of boycotting the Olympics. I can see Daniel's point, but I also wonder about the effectiveness of boycotting a country.

First, will their economy suffer if I don't watch the Olympics? I suppose whichever network that is broadcasting it won't get good ratings, and won't be able to charge as good of advertising rates in the future, thus losing some revenue. Perhaps they even lose some immediate revenue if there are clauses in their contracts to meet minimum views. But I doubt that the network has a clause that gets them to take back money they paid China for the right to broadcast. Thus China doesn't lose any immediate money. Corporations might be less likely to do business in China if an effective boycott is made, that would hurt their economy.

Second, what part of China suffers if their economy is hurt? I have a feeling those citizens who are blocked from reading my blog will be hurt more than the bigwigs who decided to block it.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sondheim safety

Chad Orzel points to an Inside Higher Ed article on the fallout from the recent tragedy at Northern Illinois University: Arkansas Tech banned a production of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins and insisted that the one dress rehearsal allowed "so the cast could experience the play" had to be done without the prop guns (which had to be cut in half).

As one of Chad's commenter's says: "When musical theater is outlawed only outlaws will have musical theater." Methinks the college president was more concerned about presidential assassinations than the welfare of his students. Also, it is an easy "look I'm doing something" stunt that will only offend the theater crowd, a much smaller percentage of alumni than football fans. "Further frustrating faculty members, there have been reports of gun shots — and a recent shooting injury — at parties organized by Arkansas Tech students, but the students organizing those parties were reportedly football players, not thespians."

Hopefully DePauw won't cancel The Abduction of Figaro this coming week, even though the opera is invaded by a pirate who may or may not have a sword. But then, DePauw had a much more productive response to the NIU tragedy, so no pointless gestures are necessary.

Hail to the Chief

DePauw has a new president, Brian Casey. There was a nice reception for him at our new Performing Arts Center yesterday afternoon, so I was able to stroll over from my office without braving the winter storm. I was very impressed with his mini-speech, it felt like a Obama moment with stress on the value of DePauw and how we faculty/students/staff should be bragging about the wonders of DePauw. You can get a flavor from this video.

FriPod: Mist and Mystery

1. "Behold I tell you a mystery" from the Messiah by Handel, performed by Samuel Ramey with the Toronto Symphony and Andrew Davis.

2. Amers, Part 1: Libero, dolce, misterioso by Kaija Saariaho, performed by Avanti! Chamber Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, Conductor; Anssi Karttunen, cello.

3. "Above the Mist" from Four Peace Vignettes by John Levno, performed by the Aries Brass Quintet.

4. "Misty" by Erroll Garner and Johnny Burke, performed by Ella Fitzgerald on Compact Jazz.

5. "Moon Mist" by Mercer Ellington, performed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra on 22 Original Big Band Recordings.

6. "Mystery Train" by Junior Parker and Sam Phillips, performed by Elvis Presley.

7. "Neptune the Mystic" from The Planets by Gustav Holst, performed by a) Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, b) Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

8. "Scarlett in the Mist / Rhett Leaves" from the Gone With the Wind soundtrack by Max Steiner.

9. Symphony No. 2 "Mysterious Mountain" by Alan Hovhaness, performed by Gerard Schwartz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

10. Symphony No. 3 in D minor, IV. Sehr langsam; misterioso by Gustav Mahler, performed by James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Should I stay or should I go?

A new blogger has taken Charles Noble and me to task for thinking that dialog is good. I'm singled out for the hypocrisy of protesting the Bush administration's tyranny while saying that it is okay for the NYPhil to go to North Korea. I can see why "Fitzroy" could come to this conclusion, though I see no contradiction. I continue to talk to Bush supporters and continue to disapprove of the North Korean government. It comes down to accepting current conditions and believing that communication will make things better. I accept that George Bush is president of the United States, so any efforts to change policy will be through communication with him and/or his followers. I also accept that Kim Jong-il is leader of North Korea, and that any efforts to change policy there will be through communication with him and/or his followers. You may say fairly that said change is a pipe dream, but I firmly believe that it is even more of a pipe dream to think that the North Korean problem will go away if we stop communicating with them. The aforesaid Bush administration found that out the hard way, when their non-communication policy led to the restart of the North Korean nuclear program.

Matthew Guerreri has a more nuanced take, complete with Gershwin analysis and Korean history.
Update: Steve Smith is going to blog the North Korean tour.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

World Music Series (play ball!)

The LA Philharmonic is promoting the World Music Series at the Walt Disney Hall., with performances by The Chieftains (this Thursday), Eva Ayllón, Asha Bhosle, and the Kronos Quartet (one of these things is not like the other ones, one of these things is not the same...) To be fair, the Kronos Quartet will be performing with Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and performing other Icelandic music by Derek Charke, Sigur Rós, and Xploding Plastix.

As part of the promotion, the Phil is offering the opportunity to win tickets for the Eva Ayllón concert on March 7. She will perform "musica criolla," a combination of flamenco, African rhythms, and Spanish folk melodies that she has created. Click to win, as they say.

Friday, February 15, 2008

FriPod: O

1. "O beltà rara, o santi modi adorni" by Andrea Gabrieli, performed by Paul McCreesh; Gabrieli Consort & Players on Politics, Dialogues and Pastorales.

2. "O Come, All Ye Faithful" performed by the Indianapolis Christ Church Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys on Sing, Choirs Of Angels.

3. "O Death" performed by Ralph Stanley on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

4. "O death where is thy sting" from The Messiah by Handel, performed by Florence Quivar, John Aler; Andrew Davis, Toronto Symphony.

5. "O del mio amato ben" by Stefano Donaudy, performed by Arleen Augér on Arleen Auger, American Soprano.

6. "O dolci mani..." from Tosca by Puccini, performed by Price - Di Stefano - Taddei - Corena - Wiener Philharmoniker - Herbert von Karajan.

7. "O galantuomo, come andò la caccia?" from Tosca.

8. "O glücklich Paar, und glücklich immerfort" from The Creation by Haydn, performed by John Eliot Gardiner; English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir.

9. "O Grande Amor" by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius DeMoraes, performed by Stan Getz on Sweet Rain.

10. "O magnum mysterium" by Morten Lauridsen, performed by the Robert Shaw Festival & Chamber Singers.

11. "O passi sparsi, o pensier vaghi e pronti" by Andrea Gabrieli performed by Paul McCreesh; Gabrieli Consort & Players.

12. "O Quam Tu Pulchra Es" by Alessandro Grandi, performed by The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble on Accendo - Music from the Time of Claudio Monteverdi.

13. "O Sole mio" by Eduardo di Capua, performed by Bertin-Scholl-Visse on The Three Counter-tenors.

14. "O tu ch'innanzi mort' a questre rive" from Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, I can't remember the performers other than the Edward Tarr Brass Ensemble on period instruments.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No birth opera for you

Everybody has been having fun searching the Met Opera database for the performance on their birthday. Everyone but me, that is. I find that the Met didn't perform any operas between June 28 and December 29 in 1969, skipping my birthday of November 11. The closer one was Aida with Leontyne Price, so that is pretty cool, but still. Not the same. Can anyone knowledgeable in operatic things tell me why there was such a late season opening?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The REAL Grammy's

The most important result. There might be some others announced on TV right now.

Update: Dr. Dick has the rest of the classical Grammy's.

Mozart, Political Shill

Funnyman Roy Zimmerman provides W.A. Mozart's take on Barack Obama:


Bonus: Zimmerman muses on if the Beatles were Irish:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Artists speaking truth to power

Daily Kos just pointed me to an opinion column in the Washington Post written by the great pianist and conductor, Leon Fleisher. That's right, a political column by a musician. Fleisher writes of his dilemma at being honored to be honored at the Kennedy Center Honors, but being dismayed to be connected with the dishonorable Bush administration. I appreciate his candor, and especially his decision:
Turning a blind eye to the political undercurrents of the event dismantles the very force of art in this country that the honors celebrate: the freedom, nay, the obligation to express oneself honestly and without fear. Ultimately, there is no greater honor than that freedom.

We all need to speak truth to power, even when that means forgoing an honor. I wish Fleisher had done more, though his article raises a voice that perhaps was louder than a non-Kennedy Center Honoree would be. And since I've never been up for a similar award, I cannot claim any moral superiority in my own decisions. But I do know that life is too short to make ethical compromises, but life is too fragile not to make some compromises (a great saying I read on Father Jake's blog, though I can't find it now).

Into the Woods

Last night and today I watched my latest Netflix movie, Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods. I was deeply engrossed by the Broadway production, with fabulous performances and great scene design. I would've kept watching last night through the whole two acts, but held to my Lenten discipline of getting to bed at 10:30. I didn't start watching the DVD until 9:30, after finishing comments on all my students blogged analyses and grading their figured-bass realizations. So I watched more this morning after a nice 6.4 mile run and then finished it this afternoon while the kids were making Valentines. Sondheim used a musical language that was very reminiscent of Sunday in the Park with George or Sweeney Todd, with lots of quick Aaron Sorkin-esqe patter, pointillistic orchestration, and descending minor sevenths and diminished fifths to end vocal phrases. But that language works well for him, and served the story well.

I'd welcome Netflix recommendations of other musicals or operas. I've already seen A Love for Three Oranges, The Rake's Progress, and Rasputin. In my queue are waiting Tales of Hoffmann, Fidelio, Eugene Onegin, and Mlada. I've performed in the pit for the Offenbach, but have never seen the others.

Friday, February 08, 2008

FriPod: Days of the Week

1. "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" by Byrd, performed by Fats Domino.
2. "Good Friday Spell" from Parsifal by Richard Wagner, performed by Gerard Schwarz; Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
3. "Come Sunday" by Duke Ellington on The Best Of Duke Ellington: Centennial Edition.
4. "Sunday Traffic" from Music for Movies by Aaron Copland, performed by Dennis Russell Davies and the Orchestra of St. Luke's.
5. "Sunday" from first act of Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim, performed by Original Broadway Cast.
6. "Sunday" from second act of Sunday in the Park with George.
7. "Sunday in the Park with George"(see a trend here?)

Wow, that's a pretty pathetic list. Feel free to offer your own tunes that fit this category.

Beethoven and Hensel and Brahms, oh my!

This week my Theory IV students have analyzed portions of Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata (first movement), Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel's "Neue Liebe, neues Leben", and Brahms' "Die Mainacht." Whoever commented last week on Rooster's Hensel post caused quite a stir in the classroom. Now the students realize that other people* are reading their words, so they brought a whole new game to this weeks analyses.

*People other than their fuddy-duddy professor.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Politics Update

No, this is not about Mitt Romney's withdrawal from the presidential race. This post is about something far more crucial, an additional to my Super Tuesday post on the intersections of music and politics. Charles Noble has written an excellent interpretation of Lorin Maazel's response to conservative criticism on the NY Phil's tour to North Korea. Charles takes poet Paul Lake to task for writing of "the poison of multiculturalism," rightly pointing out that "understanding and context do not equal condoning or endorsing," and that understanding will lead to solving the important conflicts.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Yes, I've got a very nice and distinct black ash cross on my forehead. It's so distinct that the priest who made it was admiring it afterwards, and others were commenting on how it matched my black outfit. I've decided to give up playing the Wii (sob!) for Lent, along with meditating every day. And starting tomorrow I will be going to bed by 10:30 no matter what. In all three cases its not about punishing myself, but rather opening up space in my life to listen to God and myself.

I also want to listen to more Sibelius, damn you Alex Ross!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Super Tuesday Soundtrack

Since Indiana doesn't take part in Super Tuesday (our primary is in May), I have the time to read various connections between music and politics.

Barack Obama has an ad that sets one of his speeches musically by, involving many celebrities including Herbie Hancock. Gabriel approves, as does Elaine.

Our favorite canine composer thinks we should look to artists to lead the country, demolishing arguments against government funding of the arts in the process.

Two violins have been made in honor of Daniel Pearl, and given to students of Mark O'Connor's fiddle camp for one year. The luthier, Jonathan Cooper, is making a viola now and hopes to find a sponsor to fund the making of a cello to complete the quartet.

Musicologists are voting, are you?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sol-less music?

Lawrence Dillon criticizes Hammerstein for teaching all future generations that "Sol" is pronounced "sew." Suggested alternate lines: “Sol, the Bottom of My Shoe,” or “Sol, a Slice of Fish Filet.”

Nice snark aside, I can see why the 'l' was dropped. One benefit of movable Do solfège over scale degree numbers is the natural flow of one sound to the next, as (almost) all of the solfège syllables have a simple consonant-vowel combination, unlike numbers. Thus the shift from one syllable to the next is easy, allowing the singing of fast passages. But try to sing "one-three-five-three-one" or "five-six-five-six-five" really fast and the difficulty of shifting from the ending consonants to the following starting consonant becomes evident. While pronouncing "Sol Ti" is easier than "five sev," "So Ti" is even easier. And since most (all?) students don't make the connection between the scale degrees and the starting notes of each line of the thousand-year-old hymn, there isn't the need to keep the exact sound.

Friday, February 01, 2008

FriPod: Random

1. "New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel on Turnstiles.
2. "From Bohemia's Woods and Meadows" from Ma Vlast by Bedrich Smetana, performed by Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra/Macal.
3. "Alle Voci Del Bronzo Guerriero" by Handel, performed by Wynton Marsalis and Kathleen Battle on Baroque Duet.
4. "Petrus Aber Antwortete Und Sprach Zu Ihm" from St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach, performed by Mark Padmore, Deborah York, Etc., Paul Mccreesh; Gabrieli Consort & Players.
5. "Weiche Graser Im Revier" from New Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 65 by Brahms, performed by Catherine Edwards, John Alley, Jane Glover; BBC Singers.
6. "Triskelion" by Bruce Adolphe, performed by the American Brass Quintet.
7. Symphoy No. 1 in C major, IV. Adagio - Allegro molto e vivace by Beethoven, performed by Leonard Bernstein; New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
8. "Sicilienne" by Maria-Theresa von Paradis, performed by Rolf Smedvig, trumpet/Michael Murray, organ.
9. "Wer Hat Dich So Geschalgen" from the same St. Matthew Passion recording.
10. "Knozz-Moe-King" by Wynton Marsalis on Live at Blues Alley.

Revenge of the Class Blogs

My Theory IV students have written their first posts to Form and Analysis. The first assignment was one of four excerpts:

1) Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel's "Nachtwanderer" (mm. 14-17)
2) Mozart's Sonata in D major, K 284, III (variation 12, mm. 25-28)
3) Bernstein and Sondheim, "One Hand, One Heart" from West Side Story (mm. 1-17)
4) Scott Joplin's "Pine Apple Rag" (mm. 77-84).

They were to pay particular attention to modal mixture harmonies, and to write about performance issues and their reactions as listeners. Go see what they had to say, and offer your own thoughts on these pieces.