Monday, April 28, 2008

The Digital Phoenix

Via Scott, the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) will be resurrected on July 1. Read here for details on why it shut down in the first place.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I've been tagged by Steve Hicken to do the following:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

House of Chains by Steven Erikson.
An edged weapon scored deep across his back. Spinning, Karsa swung his blade under the attacker's outstretched arms, chopped deep between ribs, jamming at the breastbone. He tugged fiercely, tearing his sword free, the dying lowlander's body cartwheeling past him.
Yes, I read some violent stuff. Let's see, I'll tag Tim, Phil, Empiricus or Sator Arepo, Dave, and Chad.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

SatPod: Music

Since I'm trying to define music, here is what the almighty iTunes has to say:

1. Concert Music for Piano, Brass, and Harps, Op. 49, by Paul Hindemith, performed by John Wallace, trumpet, Radoslav Kvapil, piano, The Wallace Collection.

2. Heldenmusik (12 Marches), by Georg Philipp Telemann, performed by a) Hakan Hardenberger, b) the Empire Brass.

3. "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" by Michel Legrand, performed by Arturo Sandoval on Dreams Come True.

4. "I Hear Music" by Burton Lane and Frank Loesser, performed by Bobby McFerrin on Spontaneous Inventions.

5. Ludi Musici by Samuel Scheidt, performed by Les Sacqueboutiers.

6. Maurische Trauermusik,
K. 477 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by The Schütz Choir of London; The Schütz Consort; The London Classical Players; Roger Norrington, conductor.

7. "Merry-Go-Round Music" by Marvin Hamlisch on The Sting soundtrack.

8. "Morning Music" by David Sampson, performed by the American Brass Quintet on New American Brass.

9. Music for a Summer Evening
by George Crumb, performed by Gilbert Kalish, James Freeman, Raymond DesRoches, Richard Fitz.

10. Music for Brass Octet by Anthony Plog, performed by the Summit Brass.

11. Music for Eighteen Winds by John Harbison, performed by the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble.

12. Music for Movies by Aaron Copland, performed by Dennis Russell Davies / Orchestra of St. Luke's.

13. Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta by Béla Bartók, performed by a) Detroit Symphony Orchestra, b) Fritz Reiner; Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

14. Music for the Theatre by Aaron Copland, performed by Dennis Russell Davies / Orchestra of St. Luke's.

15. "Music, when Soft Voices Die" by Roger Quilter, performed by Arleen Augér.

16. "Music, when Soft Voices Die" by John Harbison, performed by the Lawrence University Concert Choir.

17. Nachtmusic II. from Symphony No. 7 by Gustav Mahler, performed by Chicago Symphony Orchestra, George Solti.

18. "Thank you for the music" by ABBA.

19. "There is Sweet Music Here" traditional, performed by the Lawrence University Concert Choir.

What is music?

Lisa has been pondering how to define music, and offers her own definition: "Music is organized sound moving in time." I think this is a little too narrow, since it does create problems for Cage-ian music as well as other chaotic music forms. Instead, I suggest that music is sound considered as art. This definition allows someone to consider bird song or other natural sounds as music, even if it hasn't been organized. It allows static sounds to be music, as long as someone regards it in an artistic way. (They can also then call it bad music if it's artistic connections are tenuous.) It also removes the problem of who the creator is, placing the issue of defining music on the perceiver. It does raise the question, how many people must regard a given sound as art for it to be called music. I'm going with the radical answer of "one," though I leave open that others can still declare it to be not music. It is an individualized definition, thus ACD can still view Stockhausen's work as "not music," and college students can still hotly debate whether 4'33" is music. A given researcher or critic could use numbers of people to determine a reasonable view, thus if 98% of the population regards Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as artistic, then it is very reasonable to define a performance of it as music. My definition at best clarifies what we are arguing about, whether a given sound can be considered as art.

You're intellectual in PUBLIC?

The magazine Foreign Policy has produced a list of the top 100 public intellectuals. Sadly, there are no musicians on the list at all. No artists either. There are a few novelists and one playwrite, apparently one must use words to be intellectual. One of the elite, Jacques Attali, did write a book called Noise: The Political Economy of Music. I'm sure it didn't hurt that he is also an editor for the same magazine that made the list. But it is sad that artists are not viewed as intellectual by political figures. There is much truth in art, all of it meant for public consumption. Ahh, I'm too tired to continue. To bed, hoping that my cats will finish my grading for me. It's not like they go to sleep!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

For Earth Day you can download some free eco-oriented music by Chris Blake. Here is what Chris has to say:
Other featured songs off my brand new album WAVE include “How Journey Saved My Life." True story.

My last CD lent songs to several indie films, including "Silent Hearts" starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste. But the closest I ever came to stardom (or infamy) was when I almost hit Bono with my car in Westwood Village one foggy night. True story.

I also helped invent MySpace, and if you look real close at the white board behind Tom Anderson, you'll see some notes on how they planned to cut me loose and steal all my ideas. I've since formed a secret society with Divya Narendra and the Winklevosses.

Okay, so that last bit wasn't really true, but I should at least get some bonus points for sending a pitch that mentions the Winklevosses.

You can also celebrate by looking at the latest issue of Music and Politics. Read Derek Katz's review of recent recordings that mix politics into the ... er ... mix, like Neil Rolnick's Playing Well With Others featuring "Georgie" and "Dickie", or Virgil Thomson's soundtracks to The Plow That Broke the Plain and The River.

And if you live in Pennsylvania, go vote today. The earth will thank you.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chilly music

Henkjan Honing has an interesting survey up on his blog, a continuation of a survey he conducted at an EU conference in Paris. The very short survey asks:
Think of a fragment of music that is very dear to you. Is there a specific moment in the music that, e.g., gives you the shivers or goose bums, makes you cry, or is musically very special to you?

The purpose of this question is to see if current online listening communities (, Pandora, etc.) can be expanded or imitated to create

virtual listening spaces that will allow participants to share their listening experiences (LISTEN), make other listeners enthusiastic for a certain musical fragment (LURE), and mark a specific location in an actual recording (LOCATE) - a specific point in the music where a particular listener experienced something special or that s/he considers musically striking or intriguing.

Go take Henkjan's survey, and read the rest of his post.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Press Release: Andrew Bird

The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Millennium Park presents the incomparable Chicago-based performer Andrew Bird on Wednesday, September 3, at 6:30 pm at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. A violin virtuoso, Bird is also a multi-instrumentalist who adds singing and whistling to his sonic textures and imaginative lyrics. The concert opens with the Afro-beat sounds of Chicago’s own Occidental Brothers Dance Band International. The concert is free and open to the public.

Here is a video of Andrew doing his thing. He has been described as "post rock" and uses looping of live recordings to layer his music.

FriPod: Earth

Early this morning my bed started shaking, and not in a good way. Apparently I can blame the Earth for my disturbed sleep. Perhaps it is reminding us about Earth Day.

1. "Dances of the Ancient Earth" from Ancient Voices of Children by George Crumb, performed by Jan DeGaetani, Machael Dash, Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.

2. "For Behold Darkness Shall Cover The Earth" from the Messiah by George Handel, performed by Samuel Ramey and the Toronto Symphony, Andrew Davis conductor.

3. Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler, performed by Christa Ludwig, Fritz Wunderlich, Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia and New Philharmonia Orchestras.

4. "On Earth as it is in Heaven" by Ennio Morricone from The Mission soundtrack.

5. "Heaven's Here on Earth" by Tracy Chapman on New Beginnings.

6. "The Good Earth" by N. Hefti, performed by Woody Herman on The Thundering Herds 1945-1947.

7. "L'adoration de La Terre" from Le Sacre Du Printemps by Igor Stravinsky, performed by (a) Igor Stravinsky conducting some French ensemble, (b) Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

8. "A la terre" from Chateau de l'ame by Kaija Saariaho, performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Members of the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir; Esa-Pekka Salonen, Conductor; Dawn Upshaw, soprano.

9. "Day 1 - Recit & Chorus: Im Anfange schuf Gott Himmel und Erde / Und der Geist Gottes schwebte auf der Fläche der Wasser" from The Creation by Franz Joseph Haydn, performed by John Eliot Gardiner with The Monteverdi Chorus and The English Baroque Soloists.

10. "Day 3 - Recit: Und Gott sprach: Es bringe die Erde Gras hervor" from The Creation.

11. "Day 6 - Und Gott sprach: Es bringe die Erde hervor lebende Geschöpfe" from The Creation.

12. "Day 6 - Gleich öffnet sich der Erde Schoss" from The Creation.

13. "Choral/Recitativo (Soprano, Basso): Er ist auf Erden kommen arm" from the Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach, performed by Concentus Musicus Wien, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Wiener Sängerknaben & Hans Gillesberger.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Can't Hear You!

A research team in Beirut has determined that professional singers may have a risk of slight hearing impairments when compared with non-singers. A.L. Hamdan, et al, used transient-evokd otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) to find this result. They played clicks or pure tones for the singers and nonsingers, and measured the amplified and filtered responses to see if they were normal or not. If an evoked emission is not in the normal range, that suggests a damaged cochlea. While the singers' responses were in the normal range, they were "less robust" than those of the non-singers. This is a preliminary study, concerned more with establishing methedology than in finding universal results. So you vocalists should not be panicking yet. I SAID, YOU SHOULDN'T BE PANICKING YET!

AL Hamdan, KS Abouchacra, AG Al Hazzouri, and G Zaytoun. (2008). "Transient-Evoked Otoacoustic emissions in a group of professional singers who have normal pure-tone hearing thresholds," Ear and Hearing (preprint, March 29).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Play Donkey Kong!

An Episcopal priest has been making Youtube videos to drum up business. In one video, Father Matthew plays a Super Mario theme on his church's carillon:

Friday, April 11, 2008

FriPod: Family

My parents are visiting, making the Hoosier swing on their way home from snow bird paradise.

1. "Royal Family" by Gladys Hampton and M. Royal, performed by Lionel Hampton on Flying Home (1942-1945).

2. "The O'Hara Family" by Max Steiner on the Gone With the Wind soundtrack.

3. "Ode to My Family" by The Cranberries on No Need to Argue.

4. "I am Weary (Let Me Rest)" by Pete Roberts, performed by The Cox Family on O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

5. "Wildwood Flower" by Carter, Ellis, and Frigo; performed by The Carter Family.

6. "Familien-Gemälde" from Four Duets, op. 34, by Robert Schumann, performed by Dorothea Röschmann, Ian Bostridge, and Graham Johnson.

7. "Be Kind to Your Parents" by Harold Rome, performed by Pete Seeger on Children's Concert at Town Hall.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How to Protest

I've been thinking about Daniel Wolf's challenge to boycott the Olympics, and what my response should be. The Dalai Lama encourages peaceful engagement, focused on communication between all parts. I agree with this, and feel that a boycott hampers communication too much. A boycotter gives the impression that s/he will not listen to the boycotted entity until X is achieved. But what if 2-way communication is needed to achieve X? I've read some fascinating arguments on Crooked Timber about the specifics of the China-Tibet-Olympics issue. One in particular, made by a Chinese activist, reminds us that the Chinese government is not oppressing only the Tibetans, but also the majority ethnic group and other minority ethnic groups. By chanting "Free Tibet" we send a signal that we care only about the Tibetans and not about the rest of the Chinese populace. This essentially strengthens the Chinese government's position. Read the comment to see how.

So protests need to be done carefully. Success requires speaking truth, especially topower. But success also requires knowing who all of the players are, and doing everything possible (while still speaking truth) to keep them all engaged. I will not boycott the Olympics, but I will talk about human rights issues every time I mention the Olympics. I won't avoid Chinese products, but I will write letters to Congress and to newspapers reminding people about all of the human rights issues. And when I speak of the human rights issues, I will NOT dehumanize the people in the Chinese government. The administration is doing awful things, but the people in the government are still human beings, not monsters.

In other protest news, and related more to music, I got this email yesterday:
The U.S. Campaign for Burma and have partnered together with Hollywood celebrities to raise awareness around the atrocities occurring in Burma. The Burma Project consists of celebrity spokespeople filming video spots in the Los Angeles area to inform U.S. citizens about the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and Burma's struggle for democracy.

Musician Brett Dennen will be taping his US Campaign for Burma video tomorrow morning, April 10 in Santa Monica. The first shot will be at 9 AM. You will be able take your own videos and photos during the shoot. After the shoot you'll have the opportunity to interview Brett, as well as speak with the creative team who is putting this campaign together and the folks at the US Campaign for Burma. Please let me know if you are interested in receiving a media pass for this video shoot, and I can connect you with the appropriate person who will be on location.

Raising awareness is awesome, especially given the censorship that oppressive governments use to keep awareness down. I hope the videos manage to raise the issue without making monsters.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What's important

Norman Lebrecht's latest post managed to tick me off in two ways. This itself is quite normal, as I don't often agree with him. But what is impressive this time is that he was able to be doubly offensive in one sentence.
To many men - forgive me, this is not a feminine thing - a collection is life itself.

While the sentence clearly exhibits male chauvinism, the misogyny isn't readily apparent in this one sentence. For that we must look at the subsequent paragraphs, where he feels a woman was completely wrong for selling her dead relative's record collection.

Widow or daughter, it hardly matters whom. Move on, dear, move on. C'est la vie. My condolences. I do understand (the hell I do...).

How dare this uppity female try to find closure in a positive way by donating her departed love's treasure to charity? She clearly doesn't (and can't) understand the IMPORTANCE of this collection, being a silly woman.

The second affront in the aforementioned sentence is the clear focus on materialism: "the collection is life itself." Again, clarity is gained by examining the rest of the post:

A windfall for the starving masses in Sudan? Relief for the suffering Palestinians? Gimme a break. Give your old clothes and knick-knacks to Oxfam if you like. This is a man's life being broken up, down in the knacker's yard of Tavistock.

No, this is not a man's life. It is a facet, and likely an important one, of that person. But this recently deceased man also clearly had at least one loved one, who is also an important part of his life, and likely had other interests, other things produced, other dreams. A life is not solely defined by material goods. That idea is far too much of "the one with the most toys wins" philosophy. Norman would argue that it isn't the quantity of the records, but the quality:

Some poor soul had built up this collection with care, balancing the familiar with the esoteric, Furtwaengler's Beethoven with Stockhausen's Stimmung, Mozart from Bruno Walter and Machaut from whoever recorded it first in the 1950's or 1960s. This was a person of taste and discrimination whose aesthetic take on life is being scattered to the four corners of the earth.

The value of a record collection lies in the ability to listen to those recordings. This "poor soul" can no longer listen to that collection* and it is clear that his next of kin has no interest in listening to them either. She found the excellent solution, give the records to a charity who can sell them to people interested in listening to the wonderful music. This benefits both the music-loving populace around Devon and those starving and suffering Sudanese and Palestinian masses that Norman is so quick to dismiss.

I am a musician, someone who made the decision to make his living creating and studying artworks. I clearly find this activity to be valuable, otherwise I couldn't do it full-time. However, I recognize that there are things more valuable than music. Ending poverty and other forms of suffering is definitely more important. Fortunately I don't have to sacrifice all of my music to make donations of time and money to appropriate charities. Likewise, the recently deceased man didn't have to sacrifice his music either, and yet now can posthumously help these charities.

I really don't understand what damage Norman thinks has been done. A man built an impressive collection of records, a collection that was important to him. But this man is now dead, so he isn't being hurt. I think the one being damaged is Norman and like-minded individuals, those who wish their collections were important enough to be archived in a museum or library. Norman is hoping for posterity, hoping to live on through the Norman Lebrecht music collection. Seeing a similar collection "scattered to the four corners" makes that dream of prosperity less likely. If it means that much to you, Norman, you should write up your will requiring the collection to remain intact. That will probably require setting aside funds to store and maintain this collection, unless you can get assurances from a museum or library. But don't blame the next of kin for measuring prosperity in different ways than you.

*I hear that Heaven has awesome non-DRMed audio files of every bit of music ever created, at whatever bitrate you want. Being Heaven, Nyquist's Limit doesn't apply, so you analogophiles don't need to worry.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

What clarity?

Today at church we were discussing the history of church music. During this discussion I had a thought. It is widely accepted that the Council of Trent wanted simplified music so congregations could understand the words. However, these masses were being sung in Latin both before and after the Council of Trent. So, who in the congregation would understand the Latin in the first place? If they recognized the typical Mass sections, they should have been able to do so in pre-Trent masses, to the level that they knew the basic theology of Latin masses. Were the changes in musical style for under-educated priests, or for the educated ruling classes? It certainly wasn't for Giuseppe Lunchbox. Could it be that Pope Julius III just preferred Palestrina's music and decided to encode it into Catholic theology?

Friday, April 04, 2008

FriPod: MLK

1. Sinfonia, Movement II "O King" by Luciano Berio, performed by Sinfonia Singers, Orchestre Philharmonique, and Luciano Berio. Here is Tim Rutherford-Johnson's description:
[...] the second movement, a lament for Martin Luther King. This was also published as a separate work, O King. The singers change ring on the syllables of King's name with bell-like tones - supported closely by the orchestra. No actual bells are used though, and the effect is much sharper, more resistant, than simple funeral chimes. One can hear ethereal ascents in some of the string glissandi, or prayer in the softer incantations of King's name, but the sharp accents from horns, piano, clarinet and vibraphone never allow this music to subside into peaceful meditation (although it remains glisteningly beautiful), it forces attention. In the last minute of the movement, the steady - if lopsided - pulse of the music quickly frays and all disintegrates into another hushed vocal cluster as for the first time 'Martin Luther King' is heard in full statement.

2. "Luther" by Marvin Hamlisch, from The Sting soundtrack.
3. "The Most High And Mighty Christianus The Fourth, King Of Denmark, His Galliard AKA The Battle Galliard" by John Dowland, performed by Eden Karamazov.
4. "The Dreams of Kings" by James Horner, from the House of Sand And Fog soundtrack.
5. Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies, performed by the Fires of London.
6. "Good King Wenceslas" performed by Christ Church Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, Indianapolis.
7. "The King of the Golden Hall" by Howard Shore, from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack.
8. "King of the Zulus" by Lilian Armstrong, performed by Louis Armstrong on The Hot Fives & Sevens, Vol. 1.
9. King Stephen Overture op. 117 by Ludwig van Beethoven, performed by a) London Symphony Orchestra with Pierre Monteux, b) Berlin Philharmonic with Herbert von Karajan.
10. "Knozz-Moe-King" by Wynton Marsalis on Live at Blues Alley.
11. "The Perfect King" by Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell, from the Shrek soundtrack.
12. "The Return of the King" by Howard Shore, from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King soundtrack.

13. "Pride (In the Name of Love)" by U2.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Culture and Cognition

Two recent studies explore how one's cultural heritage affects the perception of music. Sarah Trehub et al (U. of Toronto) found that Japanese children (5-6 years old) were more sensitive to pitch changes than Canadian children, identifying semitone shifts in familiar TV theme songs more readily than the Canadian children. The authors suggest the pitch-accent based Japanese language as a potential cause for the heightened pitch memory, as well as the greater prevalence of early childhood music education in Japan. Since Japanese children have to distinguish different pitch levels to understand their language, their pitch memory gets exercised and (apparently) develops more quickly. And since the Japanese children learn musical pitch labels in greater numbers than their Canadian counterparts, they are more used to the concept of pitch change in the first place.

Demorest et al (U. of Washington and UCLA) compared American and Turkish listeners, trained (at least 6 years of study in their primary area and university training) and untrained. These listeners were played musical pieces from Western, Turkish, and Chinese classical traditions. The participants then listened to excerpts, half from the previous examples and half from new music from the same styles, attempting to identify which excerpts they had already heard. Musical expertise played no role in the ability to remember excerpts within each style. But Americans were much better at recognizing Western excerpts than Turkish or Chinese excerpts, and Turkish listeners were much better at identifying Turkish excerpts than Chinese excerpts (and still significantly better than Western excerpts though not as great a difference). Since Turkish musicians also learn Western music theory and history, it is not surprising that they still recognized these excerpts at higher than chance.

Both studies show that enculturation has a significant affect on the development of musical memory, whether at the large scale of recognizing pieces or at the small scale of remembering note patterns. Here is a great example of adaptation, based on social environmental stresses rather than physical environmental stresses.* Japanese children adapt to the social demands of language and education by learning to identify pitch changes quickly. Americans and Turks adapt to their own cultures, recognizing unfamiliar elements of those cultures pretty well. Perhaps genetics will have to be tested with people adopted into different cultures than their birth countries, but the conclusions are pretty cool, if not that surprising.

SE Trehub, EG Schellenberg, and T Nakata (2008) "Cross-cultural perspectives on pitch memory." Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (e-pub).

SM Demorest, SJ Morrison, MN Beken, and D Jungbluth (2008) "Lost in translation: an enculturation effect in music memory performance." Music Perception 25, 213-223.

*I assume that Turkish and Japanese physical environments are not enough different from Canadian or U.S. environments to be the cause. Any corrections?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I hear my name not being spoken

Yes, I took another of my unannounced blog breaks. This break was due to a succession of Holy Week, Spring Break, and the sad news of my grandfather's death. But I'm now ready to face the music, so to speak. First up, I hear that my rankings have (more) competition. I'm fine with that, though I feel that ACD should have paid the courtesy of linking to one of my previous rankings, or at least mentioning the prior art of my rankings. It certainly would be fitting, since he clearly critiques my methodology in his own description of his criteria. A link at that point would allow his readers to judge for themselves the differences in rankings between his system and my two systems.

I'm curious why he omits group blogs or institutional blogs. I can understand keeping out the "index blogs" since they don't contribute new content to discussions of classical music. I also understand omitting e-zines, since I do the same. E-zines are an electronic form of MSM, thus different from the gate-crashing blogs. But ionarts is a major player in classical music blogging, as is Sequenza21. [Edit: I now see that ionarts is included, even though it is clearly a group blog. Same with Dial 'M'. So what is a group blog, in ACD's definition?] They both generate and influence discussions throughout the blogosphere, which is presumably what ACD's counting of backlinks is measuring. So why cut out influential blogs, merely because they have more than one author?

Anywho, back to my taxes. I'll post my semi-annual top 50-ish in June, so start earning those links!