Perceptions about music, perceptions that affect music, perceptions colored by music, perceptions expressed by music.
Monday, June 21, 2010
It is no mystery that many of DMB's songs are about sex, with lyrics like "You come crash into me/
And I come into you /I come into you /In a boys dream /In a boys dream" or " Sour as my fingers /Dirty pick pocket /I can still taste you /I won’t wash my hands." But I noticed that those songs seemed to share particular musical features, so I've been starting to catalog those features. Things like hypermeter, melodic contour, syncopation, these all tie together to mimic the sexual experience in subtle ways, or sometimes not so subtle ways. This research will take some time, as I haven't done much with popular music before, so I need to familiarize myself with the current state of research.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Virtuosity as Vice
discussion about amateur vs professional attitudes about music. At
first we talked about musicians on the stage who were clearly non
pros, but then it shifted to the observation that even the pros (those
who perform/teach folk music as their main source of income) had a
certain roughness or plainness to their singing and playing. I came to
the conclusion that in at least some genres of folk music there was a
disdain for polish or virtuosity. Authenticity in these circles was
shown by knowing lots of songs in the canon, and through communal
performances. Time spent by oneself working on performance craft is
less time spent performing with others. I wonder what would happen if
classical music took more of that attitude, valuing community over
individuality and broader knowledge over specific virtuosity. Jazz has
more of that balance, respecting individual skill but also valuing
communal improvisation and memorization of the canon.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
The Great Art/Pop Divide
And, guys, I’m sorry, but the art music experience is not the same as the pop music experience. Art music is about a one-on-one communication between the creator of the music via the performers to individual members of the audience. (Stravinsky said that he didn’t care about the audience, but that he did care about the individual souls that made up the audience.) Pop music is much more about a group dynamic — and I don’t say this as a criticism but rather as an acknowledgment of a fundamental aesthetic and cultural reality — in which the continuous and active participation of the audience is an intrinsic element of the art form itself.
This is an interesting definition of the difference between art music and popular music that I hadn't really considered before. I can see where he is coming from, with our desire to have absolute silence during an artistic performance so we can be totally immersed in the music. But that itself seems to be a group experience, one based on mass silent devotion rather than mass dancing or mass singing. Just as people gathered in silent prayer at a church, temple or mosque are a very different experience than praying alone, the idea of listening silently in an audience is not the same as sitting alone in front of the stereo or with earbuds in. Our behavior is different when we are in a group, thus any musical work will affect people differently in a live group situation rather than a recorded individual setting.
I've listened to rock music very carefully on my iPod, getting totally immersed in the experience of the music rather than in any audience participation (including my own physical reactions). I've sung along to classical music, and danced madly to opera. I've been distracted by the music enough to forget to clap at the end of an improvised solo at a jazz concert, and felt the strong desire to whoop and clap at the end of an inner movement of an orchestra concert.
Looking at Stephen's definitions more carefully, I think he is suggesting the intent of the composer rather than the actual behavior of the listener. When a composer is creating an artistic work, s/he is intending the listener to react on an individual basis. When a composer creates a popular work, s/he intends the listeners to react in a group way. With that definition, we can find some symphonic works that would be labeled as popular, and some rock songs that would be labeled as art, thus providing some informative worth. This creates some interesting questions, like how the original intention of a composer might be superseded by shifts in cultural behavior. Waltzes that were originally intended to be group dances are now performed in the concert hall. Concert works are mashed-up at raves. Does the current state of cultural behavior redefine the pop/art aspect of the work, or is it still dependent fully on the composer's original intention? If we cannot find any direct evidence of the composer's original intention, what indirect evidence is considered most reasonable?
Does anyone know of any musicological work in this area? It seems likely that someone has already addressed this issue.
Saturday, May 01, 2010
1. "But Who May Abide" from the Messiah by George Friedrich Handel, performed by Samuel Ramey and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra led by Andrew Davis.
2. "First of May" by Jonathan Coulton on Best. Concert. Ever.
3. "May It Be" by Enya on the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack.
4. "Maybellene" by Chuck Berry.
5. Mayn Yingele by Frederic Rzewski on Rzewski Plays Rzewski.
6. "Now is the Month of Maying" by Thomas Morley, performed by the King's Singers on Madrigal History Tour.
7. "Sheep May Safely Graze" by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Rolf Smedvig and Michael Murray.
8. "You May Be Right" by Billy Joel on Glass Houses.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
All Aboard the Zug!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I am hereby resolved!
Earlier in the interview he told Gross that "discordant" meant "incorrect" and was not synonymous with "dissonant." Not according to my dictionaries and thesaurus! I got the feeling that Sondheim was really making these statements to act as a high priest of music, creating barriers to the sacred mysteries of melody and harmony through insistence on idiosyncratic jargon. He was putting the layperson in her place, making clear that only a trained adept could comprehend how "Send In the Clowns" was structured.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Try the Thlon!
Friday, April 23, 2010
FriPod: Cleveland Orchestra
1. Symphony No. 1 in C minor by Johannes Brahms, conducted by George Szell.
2. Symphony No. 5 in Bb major by Anton Bruckner, conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi.
3. Symphony No. 6 "Tragic" in A minor by Gustav Mahler, conducted by Dohnanyi.
4. Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, conducted by Dohnanyi.
5. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart, conducted by Dohnanyi.
6. Le Poème de l'extase by Alexander Scriabin, conducted by Lorin Maazel.
7. Le Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring) by Igor Stravinsky, conducted by Pierre Boulez.
8. Petrushka by Stravinsky, conducted by Boulez.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
1) Some students excel at melodic dictations, but are horrible at identifying musical forms. Others have the opposite problem. What cognitive strengths/deficits differentiate these two skills?
2) How can the written word "sound" sincere or insincere? I've read things that I just know I don't trust, but can't point to a particular aspect of the writing that would clue me in. Likewise with reading things that seem very sincere, but again I can't tell why I trust that author.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
SunPod: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
1) Correspondences by Milton Babbitt, conducted by James Levine.
2) Cantata No. 202 "The Wedding" by J.S. Bach, conducted by Levine with Kathleen Battle.
3) Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 by Bach, conducted by Levine with Adolph Herseth et al.
4) Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 by Bach, conducted by Levine with Donald Peck and Samuel Magad.
5) Concerto for Orchestra by Béla Bartók, conducted by a) Fritz Reiner, b) Georg Solti.
6) Music for String, Percussion and Celesta by Bartók, conducted by Reiner.
7) Hungarian Sketches by Bartók, conducted by Reiner.
8) Symphony No. 9 by Ludwig van Beethoven, conducted by Solti.
9) Symphony No. 1 by Johannes Brahms, conducted by Solti.
10) Symphony No. 2 by Brahms, conducted by Solti.
11) Symphony No. 3 by Brahms, conducted by Solti.
12) Symphony No. 4 by Brahms, conducted by Solti.
13) Academic Festival Overture by Brahms, conducted by Solti.
14) Tragic Overture by Brahms, conducted by Solti.
15) Atlas Eclipticalis by John Cage, conducted by Levine.
16) Variations for Orchestra by Elliott Carter, conducted by Levine.
17) Nocturnes by Claude Debussy, conducted by Solti (1990 and 1992).
18) La Mer by Debussy, conducted by Solti.
19) Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune by Debussy, conducted by Solti.
20) The Planets by Gustav Holst, conducted by Levine.
21) A Faust Symphony by Franz Liszt, conducted by Solti.
22) Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler, conducted by Levine.
23) Symphony No. 5 by Mahler, conducted by Solti.
24) Symphony No. 7 by Mahler, conducted by Solti.
25) Symphony No. 9 in D major by Mahler, conducted by Pierre Boulez.
26) Pictures At An Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, conducted by Solti.
27) Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, conducted by Levine with June Anderson, Bernd Weikl, and Philip Creech.
28) Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninov, conducted by Reiner with Artur Rubinstein.
29) Rhapsody On a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninov, conducted by Reiner with Rubinstein.
30) Spectra for Orchestra by Gunther Schuller, conducted by Levine.
31) Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss, conducted by Daniel Berenboim.
32) Till Eulenspiegel's lustige Streiche by Strauss, conducted by Berenboim.
33) Fireworks by Igor Stravinsky, conducted by Boulez.
34) Quatre Etudes by Stravinsky, conducted by Boulez.
35) Romeo And Juliet Overture by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, conducted by Berenboim.
36) Francesca Da Rimini by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Berenboim.
37) Capriccio Italien by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Berenboim.
38) 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Berenboim.
39) Symphony No. 4 by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Solti.
40) Symphony No. 5 by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Claudio Abbado.
41) Symphony No. 6 by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Claudio Abbado.
42) Marche Slave by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Abbado.
43) Voyevoda by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Abbado.
44) Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner, conducted by Solti.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Because it's about ME!
My article is being featured tomorrow at Drew's place, but it is already up at the dedicated TAFTO site. I've been enjoying the other entries, especially seeing all of the sites in Robert Birman's video that my kids and I visited during Spring Break in Louisville. But seriously, read my contribution, because it will BLOW. YOUR. MIND. Though I may have gone a little too far in suggesting that all conductors should wear wet suits...
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Music Theory Apologetics
That’s why it sometimes seems to me that music theory is one of the most despicable disciplines there is, because you’d probably label the bass of that magical chord a “passing tone,” and once you’ve labeled it a passing tone it’s a bit deflating … doink!, it goes in the bin with all the other passing tones. Somewhat like passing through Trenton on your way to Philadelphia: unremarkable. In the same way, once you call something Spaghetti and Meatballs, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’ve understood anything about pasta, or that you should serve it to paying customers, or why a pianist might eat such a ridiculous thing before a concert, or any of the related questions that might come up. But Bach had that way of using passing tones so that you could meditate on the passing-ness of things, what it is to pass, to move on, to leave beauties behind … of labeling the labels with meaning, breathing life back into the most basic, even the most unassuming, words.
Notice that right after Jeremy criticizes music theory for labeling a note, he uses that exact label to explain his interpretation of the beauty of that note. It is indeed a lovely passing-ness, and yes it is different from other passing tones. But it is still a passing tone, and that identification of the context is what helps to figure out why the previous chord can be interpreted as existing in two worlds, or two time-lines.
My guess is that Jeremy would correct himself that he meant "bad" music theory, the kind that does indeed stop at labels without providing any interpretation. I know those kinds of music theory classes exist, for two reasons: 1) The classes are so huge that the teacher has no time to get beyond the basics, as the prospect of grading 100 analytical papers for a single class is very daunting. 2) The bad theory class is taught by a studio professor whose only theory training was another bad undergraduate theory program. The teacher finds him/herself teaching a subject s/he hates because s/he didn't recruit enough bagpipers to fill the studio. However, too many people read these statements, or make them themselves, and start forgetting the crucial "bad", blaming the discipline instead of bad teachers.
So, don't hate the game, hate the bad playas.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The enemy of the good
explore the book and author more later, but one of the posts resonated
with me. Contrasting perfection and precision, the author talks about how impossible it is to create a truly perfect performance. This goes along with my previous post about allowing students to take chances, that it is good to risk a bad performance, and that beauty often lies in imperfection. An emotionally charged cracked note, a rushed and uneven tempo due to
excitement, or a hushed sound that stops too early because the player lost the vibration, these imperfect performances can inspire and elevate our own imperfect selves. And trying to get rid of these imperfections can squash some beautiful sounds due to paralysis of analysis. So let good performances reign, and may you never be cursed with perfection.
Friday, April 09, 2010
FriPod: New York
1. Symphony No. 3 by Aaron Copland, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
2. Quiet City by Copland, conducted by Bernstein, with Philip Smith (trumpet).
3. Symphony No. 8 by Antonín Dvořák, conducted by Kurt Masur.
4. Symphony No. 9 by Dvořák, conducted by Masur.
5. Slavonic Dances, op. 46 by Dvořák, conducted by Masur.
6. Slavonic Dances, op. 72 by Dvořák, conducted by Masur.
7. Symphony in D minor by César Franck, conducted by Masur.
8. Les Eolides by Franck, conducted by Masur.
9. Symphony No. 5 in D minor by Dmitri Shostakovich, conducted by Bernstein.
10. On the Transmigration of Souls by John Adams, conducted by Lorin Maazel, with the New York Choral Artists and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
11. Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček, conducted by Masur.
12. Symphony No. 1 in C major by Ludwig van Beethoven, conducted by Bernstein.
13. Symphony No. 3 in Eb major "Eroica" by Beethoven, conducted by Bernstein.
14. Symphony No. 6 in F major "Pastoral" by Beethoven, conducted by Bernstein.
15. Consecration of the House Overture by Beethoven, conducted by Bernstein.
16. Leonore Overture No. 2 by Beethoven, conducted by Bernstein.
17. Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.
18. Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov, conducted by Bernstein.
19. "Dance of the Tumblers" from The Snow Maiden by Rimsky-Korsakov, conducted by Bernstein.
20. Capriccio Italien by Piotr Tchaikovsky, conducted by Bernstein.
21. Polonaise by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Bernstein.
22. Waltz from Eugen Onegin by Tchaikovsky, conducted by Bernstein.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
So That's What He Meant!
GERMAN - ENGLISH
Langsam - Slowly
Schleppend - Slowly
Dämpfer auf - Slowly
Mit Dämpfer - Slowly
Haupttempo - Slowly
Hier ist ein frisches belebtes Zeitmass eingetreten - Slowly
Sehr einfach und schlicht, wie eine Volksweise - Slowly
Im Anfang sehr gemächlich - In intense inner torment
Alle Betonungen sehr zart - With more intense inner torment
Alle Betonungen sehr zart - With smallish quantities of fairly mild inner torment
Sehr gemächlich - With indescribably horrific inner torment
Etwas gemächlicher als zuvor - Slowly
Gemächlich - Intermission
Am Griffbrett - As if in tune
Getheilt (geth.) - Out of tune
Noch ein wenig beschleunigend - Slowing down but with a sense of speeding up
Etwas bewegter, aber immer noch sehr ruhig - Somewhat louder, though still inaudible as before
Von hier ab unmerklich breiter werden - As if wild animals were gnawing on your liver
Ohne cresc. - Without toothpaste
Ohne Nachschl(age) - Without milk (sugar)
Mit dem Holze zu streichen - Like a hole in the head
Mit Parodie - Viola solo
Dämpfer ab - Eyes closed
Nicht eilen - No eels
Ploetzlich viel schneller - Even more ploddingly
Den ersten Ton scharf herausgehoben - Do not play until the buzzer sounds
Aeusserst zart, aber ausdrucksvoll - Radiantly joyful, despite the itching
Noch breiter als vorher - Better late than never
Lang gestrichen - Heads up
Lang gezogen - Heads back down
Immer noch zurueckhaltend - With steadily decreasing competence
Wieder zurueckhaltend - Increasingly decreasing
Ganz unmerklich etwas zurueckhaltend - Slowly
Allmählich (unmerklich) etwas zurueckhaltend - Much faster (slower) than conductor
Allmählich in das Hauptzeitmass ubergehen - Do not look at the conductor
Allmählich etwas lebhafter - Screaming in agony
Von hier an in sehr allmählicher aber stetiger Steigerung bis zum Zeichen - From this point on, the spit valves should be emptied with ever-increasing emotion
Die werden allmählich stärker und stärker bis zum (fp) - In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
What is good?
I've been thinking about the goals for student performances. Twice recently I've heard criticisms of student efforts to tackle musical projects that were very difficult, perhaps too much for the current level of these students to perform to levels expected by these critics. I can understand that it isn't always pleasant to be in the audience for a performance that is very rough in implementation. However, these kinds of experiences can be very rewarding for the students. First of all, the path taken to develop these projects provides many opportunities for learning. Whether it is discovering the challenges in acquiring scores or broadcast rights, or figuring out how to tune chords which you have never heard of before, these are valuable lessons. Second, realizing that you gave a rough performance is a humbling and embarrassing experience, but this realization is also a window into personal growth. The embarrassed student can learn that success is not guaranteed, despite one's best efforts. This student will also learn that failure does not mean the end of the world. Third, the students who are encouraged to take musical chances in the safety of high school or college will be more comfortable taking chances when they are in the less forgiving adult world. And whether those new adults are professional musicians or avid music enthusiasts, the willingness to take risks can only help take music to new levels of awesomeness.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Top of the YouTube Charts
Saturday, February 27, 2010
1. "Birdhouse In Your Soul" by They Might Be Giants on Flood.
2. "Consecration of the House" Overture by Ludwig von Beethoven, performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.
3. "Dovehouse Pavan" by Alfonso Ferrabosco, performed by the American Brass Quintet on Music of Renaissance, Baroque.
4. "Oh How I Wish That I Was In My House" from The Greater Good by Stephen Hartke, performed by Christine Abraham and the Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra with Stewart Robinson.
5. "Hawkins' Barrel House" by Coleman Hawkins on Classic Tenors.
6. "The House I Live In" by Earl Robinson, performed by Paul Robeson Jr. on Songs of Free Men.
7. "The House On the Hill" by Aaron Copland, performed by Camerata Singers and Timothy Mount.
8. "If I Leave the House" by D'arc on Woman On Fire.
9. "In the Jailhouse Now" by Jimmie Rogers, performed by the Soggy Bottom Boys on the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
10. "Invading Elliott's House" by John Williams on the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial soundtrack.
11. "Jailhouse Rock" by Lieber and Stoller, performed by Elvis Presley.
12. "Life In a Glasshouse" by Radiohead on Amnesiac.
13. "Master Of the House" from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer, performed by the Broadway Cast.
14. "Pent-Up House" by Sonny Rollins, performed by the Guy Baker Ensemble on The Talented Mr. Ripley soundtrack.
15. "The Housewife's Lament" by Frederic Rzewski on Rzewski Plays Rzewski.
16. "Swing House" by Gerry Mulligan, performed by Stan Kenton on New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm.
17. "This Is No Longer Your House" by James Horner from the House of Sand and Fog soundtrack.
18. "Warehouse" by the Dave Matthews Band on Under the Table and Dreaming.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
The danger of knowing too little
*Fortunately not directed at me, as the last time I conducted an ensemble was 15 years ago, and that was all college students. And I've only had to deal with helicopter parents three times.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The new sketchbook
Friday, February 19, 2010
1) "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan, performed by a) Jimi Hendrix, b) U2.
2) Monster on a Leash by Tower of Power.
3) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack by Howard Shore.
4) "Black Topaz" by Joan Tower, performed by Laura Flax, Patricia Spencer, Jonathan haas, Deborah Moore, Stephen Gosling, Mike Powell, Chris Gekker.
5) "Eiffel Tower Polka" by Francis Poulenc, performed by Wynton Marsalis.
6) "Petroushskates" by Joan Tower, performed by eighth blackbird.
7) "Snow Dreams" by Joan Tower, performed by Carol Wincenc, flute, Sharon Isbin, guitar.
8) "Stepping Stones" by Joan Tower, performed by Edmund Niemann, Nurit Tilles.
9) Concerto for Orchestra by Joan Tower, performed by Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
10) "Made In America" by Joan Tower, performed by Slatkin and the NSO.
11) "Tambor" by Joan Tower, performed by Slatkin and the NSO.
12) "Tres Lent (In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen)" by Joan Tower, performed by André Emelianoff, Joan Tower.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Tower in the Ivory Tower
Tomorrow I am moderating a public discussion with Joan Tower, as I do every year with the guest composer. I always take the opportunity to ask some questions of my own before calling on the audience. I plan to ask her about her views on the current state of the classical music industry, teaching composition, and why combining text with music is so unappealing for her. Let me know if there are any burning questions you would ask Joan Tower if you were here. And for my DePauw readers, please come and ask questions tomorrow. 11:30 in Thompson Recital Hall.
Friday, February 12, 2010
This leads to the question, why teach it then? The quick answer is that enough Common Practice Period music is still performed that the students need to understand how it works, and how subsequent styles differ from it. But as we travel further and further away from the 18th century, I wonder how much class time we theorists will be able to devote to the stylistic nuances of that time period, at the sacrifice of 20th and 21st century stylistic practices.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Guest Post: Rossini's Turco vs Italiana
Rossini’s Turk in Italy had a rough start. Just the year before, Rossini had a huge hit with an opera called The Italian Girl in Algiers. The set-up was simple enough: culture clash and comedy ensue when an Italian bombshell is washed up on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Italian Girl was written for Venice and was a wild success. When Rossini decided to turn this plot device on its head and write a new opera about a Turkish prince who finds himself in Naples, he was obviously planning on cashing in on the popularity of its prequel.
Well, audiences in Milan (where Turk was premiered) didn’t agree. They must’ve felt as if they’d been fed an imitation of the original opera seen in Venice, and they were (as Italian audiences tend to be) pretty vocal about it. It’s a shame, for Turk is in no way inferior when experienced on its own. Nevertheless, it has spent most of its life eclipsed by the popularity of Italian Girl.
I love drawing little diagrams that describe the relationships between operatic characters. (I do the same things for books of fiction with insane multi-generational character lists.) Selim is the Turk, and he’s only one of the three men involved with the lovely Fiorilla. (One of those three is Fiorilla’s husband…)
Stendhal tells a great story about the Turk performances at La Scala with the legendary buffo singer Luigi Pacini, who created the role of Geronio, Fiorilla’s cuckolded husband. It seems that there was a certain celebrity (a Duke, I think) whose wife was famously cheating on him. Pacini thought that it would be entertaining to incorporate some of the Duke’s recognizable gestures and mannerisms into his characterization of Geronio. According to Stendhal, the audience was quick to catch on, and the poor guy (who was watching from his box seat, with his cheating wife) was made a laughing-stock.
We probably won’t get involved in celebrity gossip during our production, but a good time will be had nevertheless. One of the great things about Turk is that there’s a character (the poet Prosdocimo) who breaks down the fourth wall and provides an entertaining bridge between audience and players. Add Rossini’s trademark vocal fireworks and high-energy ensembles, and you’ve got a wonderful night in the theatre.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Dipping a toe in the TAFTO
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Best of the Rest: 2-2-10
Since I haven't done this in a while, the Best of the Rest are blogs that are not in the top 25-50 classical blog lists, but that I feel deserve some extra exposure.
1. Theme and Variations: Robert teaches us about the composer/violinist Charles-Auguste de Beriot.
2. 2'23": Philip Gentry explains that Lady GaGa is at the front edge of a new movement in virtuosic provocation, in The Law of GaGa.
3. Hearing the Movies: Jim Buhler extols the Wikipedia article on Illustrated Songs, and provides a video example from 1909.
4. Classical Convert: Things I Learned from the Cleveland Orchestra strike.
5. Feast of Music: Peter Matthews explains why the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is one of the best orchestras, pound-for-pound, in America.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
52nd Grammy Awards
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
1. "Love" performed by Chet Baker on Chet Baker With Strings.
2. "Love Came to Town" by U2 on Rattle and Hum.
3. "Love For Sale" by Cole Porter, performed by Dexter Gordon on Go.
4. "Love Is Here To Stay" by George Gershwin, performed by Stanley Irwin on Irwin Sings Gershwin. (RIP, Stan)
5. "Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)" by Sting on Ten Summoner's Tales.
6. "Love Is Teasin'" arranged by Paddy Moloney, performed by Marianne Faithful & The Chieftains on The Long Black Veil.
7. "Love Me" by Victor Young, performed by Art Tatum on Solos (1940).
8. "Love Me or Leave Me" by G. Kahn, W. Donaldson, performed by Basie's Bad Boys on The Essential Count Basie Vol. 1.
9. "Love Rescue Me" by U2 on Rattle and Hum.
10. "Love Song" from Pippin by Stephen Schwartz, performed by John Rubenstein & Jill Clayburgh on the Original Cast album.
11. "Love Walked In" by George Gershwin, performed by a) Chet Baker on Chet Baker With Strings, b) Stanley Irwin on Irwin Sings Gershwin.
12. "Love Went A-Riding" by Frank Bridge, performed by Arleen Augér on Arleen Auger, American Soprano.
13. "Love You To" by George Harrison, performed by the Beatles on Revolver.
14. "Love's Philosophy" by Roger Quilter, performed by Arleen Augér on Arleen Auger, American Soprano.
15. "Lovely Ladies" from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer, from the Broadway Cast recording.
16. "Lovely Rita" by Lennon/McCartney, performed by the Beatles on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
17. "Lover Come Back To Me" by Hammerstein and Romberg, performed by a) Mildred Bailey & Her Orchestra, b) Dinah Washington on Dinah Jams.
18. "Lover Lay Down" by David J. Matthews, performed by the Dave Matthews Band on Under the Table and Dreaming.
Remember that you can listen to these tracks in the left sidebar, and purchase them there if you wish. Yes, I get a little cut if you do it from those links.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Granted, these fine young gentlemen will be performing in public, at St. Mark's Church in NY. But the spirit is still that of something fun, eclectic, and intimate. I wonder what kind of business model musicians could come up with to make salons profitable. Or perhaps salons will signal the rebirth of the amateur musician, with a piano/guitar/accordian/didgeridoo in every house.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Are YOU hip and cool?
1. "Long December," Counting Crows, Films About Ghosts: Best of Counting Crows
2. "Nightswimming," R.E.M, Automatic for the People
3. "White Flag," Dido, Life for Rent
4. "Mercy," Duffy, Rockferry
5. "November Rain" Guns and Roses, Greatest Hits (you'd think I'd know this, but not one of the GnR songs I'd experienced back in the day)
6. "Look After You," The Fray, How to Save a Life
7. "Stay," Sugarland, Enjoy the Ride
8. "Secret," Maroon 5, Live from Le Cabaret
9. "Say Goodbye," Dave Matthews Band, Crash
10. "Come Back to Bed," John Mayer, Live
11. "If my heart was a house you'd be home," Owl City, Ocean Eyes
12. "Me and Bobby McGee," Janis Joplin, Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits
13. "Cream," Prince and the New Power Generation, Best of Prince
14. "In Your Eyes," Peter Gabriel, So
15. "In My Dreams," REO Speedwagon, Best of REO Speedwagon
16. "Chasing Cars," Snow Patrol, Eyes Open
18. "Shadowboxer," Fiona Apple, Criminal
19. "Mysterious Ways," U2, Achtung Baby (I know many U2 songs, but not this one)
20. "Help Me," K. D. Lang, Tribute to Joni Mitchell
21. "Wicked Game," Chris Isaak, Best of Chris Isaak
22. "Sign your name," Terence Trent D'arby, Introducing the hardline according to Terence Trent D'arby
23. "Halo," Beyonce, I am Sasha Fierce
24. "Champagne Supernova," Oasis, What's the Story Morning Glory?
25. "Bittersweet," Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Sister Sweetly
26. "Look After You," The Fray, How to Save a Life
27. "Come on Get Higher," Matt Nathinson, Some Mad Hope
28. "Last Request," Paolo Nutini, These Streets
29. "Love Song," 311, Greatest Hits '93-'03
30. "Too Funky," George Michael, Ladies and Gentleman
31. "Down to the River to Pray," Allison Krauss, O Brother Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
32. "Bless the Broken Road," Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits vol 1
33. "Wind it Up," Gwen Stefani, The Sweet Escape
34." Just Dance," Lady Gaga, The Fame
35. "Lips of an Angel," Hinder, Extreme Behavior
36. "Sexyback," Justin Timberlake ( featuring Timbaland), FutureSex/Lovesounds
37. "Dreams," Cranberries, Stars: The Best of the Cranberries (I have one Cranberries CD, but not this one)
38. "Land of Canaan," Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls
39. "Jealousy," Natalie Merchant, Retrospectve (1990-2005)
40. "Viva La Vida," Coldplay, Viva La Vida
Some of these groups I've never even heard of, so this will definitely be an education. Coming soon, a list of classical pieces to show that one is hip and cool.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Let Freedom Ring
Friday, January 15, 2010
FriPod: Sacred Spaces
1. "O magnum mysterium" by Morten Lauridsen, performed by the Robert Shaw Festival & Chamber Singers.
2. "Down to the River to Pray" performed by Alison Kraus on O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
3. "God Only Knows" by Brian Wilson, performed by Petra Haden.
4. Concerto Grosso Op. 6 No. 8, Adagio by Arcangelo Corelli, performed by Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields.
5. "Nimrod" from the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar, performed by Andrew Davis; BBC Symphony Orchestra.
6. "I Will" by Lennon/McCartney, performed by (a) the Beatles on the White Album, (b) Jonathan Coulton.
7. "Not the Same" by Ben Folds, performed on Ben Folds Live (the audience singing along gives me chills every time).
8. "I'm Your Moon" by Jonathan Coulton, performed on Best. Concert. Ever.
9. Danses Sacrée et Profane by Claude Debussy, performed by Yolanda Kondonassis.
10. "Gloria" from Missa Pater Peccavi by Andrea Gabrieli, performed by His Majesty's Cornetts and Sackbuts, His Majesty's Consort.
There are many more, I just picked the first ten that I saw in my lists that spoke to me about this subject.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
It wants to be free!
"Minimum description length modelling of musical structure" by Panayotis Mavromatis (a friend from grad school).
"Ionian theorem" by Thomas Noll.
"Counterpoint in 2k-tone equal temperament" by Octavio A. Agustin-Aquino.
"What pre-whitened music can tell us about multi-instrument compositions" by R.E. Dumas and A.P. Georgopoulos. (Apparently pre-whitened music is music with the melody and harmony removed, so only timbre and rhythm is considered. This looks interesting to me.)
So if you find your month not nearly math-mad enough, go on over to the website and browse through some math-tastic music or musical math.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Second, this story reminded me of an NPR story I heard recently about Men At Work getting sued for plagiarizing "Kookaburra" for their song "Down Under." I have a problem with extended copyright in general, because of this sort of nonsense that could impede the creation of new art. Does "Down Under" significantly sample "The Kookaburra Song" (a friggin' 4-bar melody)? You judge (listen to the flute part in the Men At Work piece):
This idea of egregious lawsuits deserves unnecessary censorship (though no one deserves Barney):
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Technology and Blues
SHB felt that he was such a good musician that he would definitely know the song. I said that since he was relying on the tablet for about half of his pieces, that he wouldn't know it from memory, and would have to use the tablet, if it was in there. SHB felt that any decent music list would include this song. So SHB went to request the song, and he proceeded to look it up on the tablet. He didn't know it, but sightread it (piano and vocals) incredibly well. It was very exciting to see a tablet used this way, allowing a great musician to expand the repertoire in such a compact way.
Later we joined some others at the Slippery Noodle to hear a great blues band, the winner of a Blues Jam contest. They were from Mooresville, and had lots of friends and family in the audience which created a very festive environment. The others teased me for my lack of knowledge about some of the blues songs, especially as one of the others was a major blues expert. Ah well, I smoked them on Beethoven trivia.
Friday, January 08, 2010
FriPod: Frogs to Funk
2. "From Border to Border from Quiet Flows the Don" by Ivan Dzerzhinsky, performed by Paul Robeson Jr. on Songs of Free Men.
3. From me flows what you call Time (1993) by Toru Takemitsu, performed by Andrew Davis and BBC Symphony Orchestra.
4. "From Me to You" by Lennon and McCartney, performed by (a) Arthur Wilkinson Orchestra, (b) Bobby McFerrin, (c) The Beatles.
5. "From the Steeples and the Mountains" by Charles Ives, performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
6. Fugue for string quartet in Bb major ("Grosse Fugue"), Op. 133 by Beethoven, performed by the Alban Berg Quartet.
7. Fugue from Violin Sonata No. 1 by J.S. Bach, performed and arranged by Christopher Parkening.
8. "Fulgebunt Justi" by Orlando Di Lasso, performed by Barbara Butler and Charles Geyer.
9. "Funeral of Amenhotep III Edited" by Philip Glass on The Orange Mountain Music Philip Glass Sampler Vol. 1.
10. "Funk the Dumb Stuff" by F.R. Prestia/S. Kupka/Castillo, performed by Tower of Power on Monster on a Leash.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Tom Selleck was right!
CD Tsang and NJ Conrad, "Does the message matter? The Effect of song type on infants' pitch preferences for lullabies and playsongs," Infant Behavioral Development, Dec 2009.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
The single most important thing you can say about a work of art is that it is real, that the artist to whom it is attributed made it. Until you are certain that a work of art is authentic, it is impossible to say much else that is meaningful about it.
As would be expected, most commenters followed John Quiggin's lead in denouncing this claim, pointing out that the artwork should have some worth outside of its provenance. And I certainly agree with this. But then I read a comment by Bad Jim, who asks a provocative question:
"Does anyone even bother to try to fake music from folks like them [Brahms and Schumann]? And if so, why not? An original manuscript of Mozart’s variations on “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” would be pretty damned valuable; how much more would his noodlings on “Happy Birthday” fetch?"
This is an excellent question, and one to which I didn't know the answer. I am familiar with the probable forgery of Shostakovich's memoirs, and of the Joyce Hatto plagiarisms. There are certainly pieces that were once attributed to someone famous, like the pieces in the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook that are now believed to not be written by Johann Sebastian. But those were honest attempts that were corrected as more facts became known. The closest thing I can imagine is David Cope's EMI project, but he was always upfront about the provenance of the Chopin-esque or Bach-ish pieces his software composed.
Let's assume there haven't been any serious attempts to forge a piece by one of the masters. There certainly is motive for doing so, a Beethoven score sold for $2 million in 1991. There certainly is a large amount of expertise needed to create such a forgery, but that is the same with paintings. Is it because the forger would need to be a expert at composing in the style of a master, and be an expert at copying the handwriting of the master, two very different skills? Certainly a painting forger has the single skill of painting in the style (yes, there is brushstroke vs. structure vs. color palate vs. materials used), but that is all still very closely related to the art of painting. Whereas a music forger would need to master the counterpoint, melodic construction, orchestration habits, notational idiosyncrasies, paper and ink properties, handwriting, and means of properly aging the score. A team of experts would be needed to carry off such a forgery, cutting down on profits and increasing the likelihood of someone getting caught and spilling the beans.
As it turns out, there is a history of musical autograph plagiarism, at least in the 1930s. A man named Charles Weisberg forged scores by the American composers Francis Hopkinson and Stephen Foster, and sold them to various collectors during anniversaries of these composers. He was caught, thanks to the efforts of musicologists and rare book experts, but his efforts have apparently caused some havok to music librarians, according to this article in Notes: "Forgery in the Music Library: A Cautionary Tale" by Gillian Anderson, et al (Vol 60 No. 4, June 2004), 865-892. Apparently the forgeries were not good at all, being copied from Sousa marches and Rubinstein's "Melody in F", college fight songs, and an opera by Grétry. The only reason Weisberg had any success at all was due to the lack of fame and ability of Hopkinson. Musical ability that is, he was a well-known satirist and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, which is why his scores were collectible.
Monday, January 04, 2010
New Year's Resolutions
1) I resolve to post at least 3 times each week, unless I get another paid writing gig.
2) I resolve to participate in at least one triathlon (sprint level) this year, which means I need a good road bike. I will probably run in another marathon, but I will wait until the summer to start training for that.
3) I resolve to be better at communicating with family, friends, acquaintances, and commentors.
4) I resolve to get to bed by 11 pm on school nights, allowing 30 minutes of leeway per week.
I have some other resolutions, but those will be saved for my journal.