Sunday, January 31, 2010

52nd Grammy Awards

Live blogging is now over. Enjoy the dialog below.

11:28 Scott: Country really is king right now, isn't it? I'd like to thank you, SHB, for providing great insights tonight, and keeping me blogging way past my bedtime!

11:27 SHB: Wow. I bet Lady Gaga wants to hit her over the head with her hairpiece. She needs to stop talking.

11:25 Scott: Yay to Santana. And here goes the final award, just before I fade for the night. And I actually own one of the albums nominated!

11:20 Scott: Okay, that censoring really ruined the rhythm of that performance for me. Why bother if it is going to ruin the song to stick to broadcast standards?

11:16 Scott: Yes, that was a super skinny bass. That was a lot of blank space in this rap song [Eminem and Lil Wayne]. I think the censors are being a little paranoid.

11:06 SHB: What was that yellow instrument? Like a super skinny bass?

11:04 Scott: Cool! And now some very justifiable love for Les Paul. It would've been so cool if Jeff Beck had played on one of Paul's original Logs.

11:02 SHB: I love David Darling. Eight String Religion is excellent for yoga.

10:58 Scott: Including Indiana's own Chris Botti and Alison Krauss. Plus the Best New Age Album went to David Darling's Prayer for Compassion. David Darling is the improv teacher/mentor/friend of my colleague Eric Edberg.

10:57 SHB: I own that album!

10:53 Scott: Best Classical Crossover Album went to Yo Yo Ma and Friends for Songs of Joy. and Peace. Lots of friends: Odair Assad, Sergio Assad, Chris Botti, Dave Brubeck, Matt Brubeck, John Clayton, Paquito d'Rivera, Renée Fleming, Diana Krall, Alison Krauss, Natalie McMaster, Edgar Meyer, Cristina Pato, Joshua Redman, Jake Shimabukuro, Silk Road Ensemble, James Taylor, Chris Thile, Wu Tong, Alon Yavnai & Amelia Zirin-Brown.

10:50 Scott: Best Classical Contemporary Composition (composed within the last 25 years), to Jennifer Higdon's Percussion Concerto, performed by Colin Currie with the London Philharmonic.

10:49 SHB: During this commercial break I would like to comment on all the smokin' black leather jackets that some of the men have worn. Ricky's was slick and I liked Jon Bon Jovi's leather anorak.

10:48 SHB: Can her earrings be any bigger? Wow.

10:47 SHB: Halo!

10:45 Scott: I want to hear more of the horn line. I know I'm biased, though. I was always frustrated when I played in a funk band and they kept us horn players low in the mix.

10:43 SHB: See how he [Dave Matthews] knocks his heels together? Every live song he does that - usually barefoot.

10:36 Scott: Ravel's Bolero to introduce the Academy President!

10:33 Scott: Best Classical Vocal Performance went to Renée Fleming for Verismo Arias.

10:31 Scott: Best Small Ensemble Performance went to David Lang's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Little Match Girl Passion performed by Ars Nova Copenhagen & Theatre Of Voices. This is the first winner that I already own.

10:30 Scott: Yes, that was a nice combination. Quite often the classical/popular voice styles don't mix, but that worked well, and a nice arrangement.

10:29 SHB: So can Mary performance of the night so far.

10:27 Scott: Bridge over Troubled Waters in Italian, pretty cool. Andrea Boccelli can sing.

10:21 Scott: Oh, you know you are just waiting for Dave Matthews!

10:20 SHB: He is a collaborator that's for sure. I guess he is not there. The Mary J and Boccelli thing should be interesting.

10:18 Scott: Why don't they just call that award [Rap/Sung] the Kanye West award? 3 out of the 5 nominees, please!

10:16 SHB: That song was released as a country single last year. I cannot believe he just mispronounced Placido Domingo's name.

10:13 Scott: That was more like Country Rock. I didn't think Nettles' voice and Bon Jovi's voice blended very well. Hers is very strident and clear, whereas his is husky.

10:10 SHB: Jennifer Nettles is SO good. She is one part of the duo Sugarland.

10:09 Scott: Hair Rock is back!

10:05 Scott: Best Chamber Music Performance went to the Emerson Quartet for Intimate Letters, with String Quartets No. 1 and 2 by Leos Janacek and Three Madrigals by Bohulav Martinu.

9:57 Scott: MJ really could wail, much more than any of the live singers, though Carrie Underwood is pretty close.

9:55 Scott: Well, the visual doesn't seem that interesting anyway.

9:54 SHB: Oops no 3D glasses.

9:52 SHB: Finally the MJ tribute.

9:50 SHB: Thank God you agree. I can't carry a tune in a bucket but it kind of sounds horrible.

9:48 Scott: ooh, Taylor is not singing in tune with Stevie Nicks. She is very flat.

9:46 Scott: Was Taylor Swift the one that was interrupted by Kanye West?

9:43 SHB: I am getting pumped up for the MJ tribute. Shout out to Cincy!

9:41 Scott: I'm using the commercial breaks to announce the classical winners, since they don't get their own screen time. Best Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra went to Evgeny Kissin with the Philharmonia Orchestra for Prokofiev's Piano Concertos No. 2 and 3.

9:39 Scott: Wow, nice allusion to bluegrass by the Zac Brown Band at the end of that song.

9:34 SHB: Chris O'Donnell is just one tall drink of cold water. But regarding your question, I feel like Green Day has been around about as long as DMB. AC/DC makes them all seem old. DMB should have won.

9:33 Scott: Is it just me, or was Green Day quite different generationally from all the other nominees for best rock album?

9:30 Scott: Best Choral Performance also went to the Mahler recording by the San Francisco Symphony, with the Pacific Boychoir, San Francisco Symphony Chorus & San Francisco Girls Chorus.

9:28 Scott: Best Instrumental Composition went to Michael Giacchino's "Married Life" from the movie Up.

9:26 SHB: The Slash move was OTT. Over the top.

9:25 Scott: Slash from GnR, that should make you happy, SHB!

9:21 Scott: Hey, that's not nice making fun of opera! Especially with so much AutoTune, Jamie! AutoTune is a means of fixing pitch problems. It can be subtle, or make the voice sound like a synthesizer.

9:21 SHB: Jamie Fox is cool but I think he must use something to enhance his voice??

9:19 SHB: Nice win for Kings of Leon.

9:11 Scott: I actually knew all of the nominees in the comedy album category.

9:08 Scott: I really liked that, especially the way they used the country yodel in a very contemporary and lyrical way.

9:05 SHB: What does the Dr. think about Lady Antebellum?

9:01 Scott: Boston Symphony Orchestra. Best Opera Recording went to a London production of Billy Budd, with Ian Bostridge, Neal Davies, Nathan Gunn, Jonathan Lemalu, Matthew Rose & Gidon Saks. Fellow blogger Anne-Carolyn Bird was nominated with the Wolf Trap Opera company for their recording of Volpone by John Musto.

9:00 SHB: For us less educated, BSO stands for Ball State Orchestra?

8:57 Scott: Okay, he is really singing. Helped by AutoTune, but it doesn't help his breathe control problems that are slowing him down a bit.

8:54 Scott: While listening to the Black Eyed Peas, the best Orchestra Performance went to James Levine and the BSO performing Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé.

8:48 Scott: So is this a signal that country is the growing trend, with them winning best new artist?

8:47 SHB: I love the Zac Brown Band. They have a song that has a line, "I've got my toes in the water, ass in the sand." It doesn't get more country than that.

8:44 Scott: I don't like the combination of piano and blues guitar in this instance. This is a very elaborate production. I don't believe she is really singing, while doing all that spinning.

8:42 SHB: I feel like she just tagged the cover on the end but let's not argue. I like the glitter falling all over Pink. Wow. She just stripped and now she is dripping wet.

8:37 Scott: I didn't notice the trumpeter. I know what a cover song is, but she inserted in the middle of "If I Were a Boy", not a usual practice for a cover.

8:36 SHB: Did you notice the female trumpet player in her band? Do you know her?

8:34 SHB: That's what we call a cover song. I don't think it was very good.

8:33 Scott: Does her song usually have the quote from Alanis Morrissette in there?

8:31 Scott: Okay, it looks like there are semi-regular fans in the audience, the way they are reacting. Though the guy she lifts up out of the audience was clearly a plant.

8:27 SHB: Beyonce can rock it. I wish I had a subway grate thing like that in my room that could blow my hair around and make me look cool.

8:26 Scott: Well, now my kids know who Taylor Swift is. Wow, she wrote all the songs herself, that is impressive.

8:16 Scott: So another musical based on a rock album, like Mamma Mia and the Billy Joel one. The cast singers are good, I'm not crazy about the Green Day lead singer's voice. I do like the song though, especially the orchestrated version.

8:12 SHB: He is annoying. Go Beyonce. Her red carpet outfit was just okay so I am sure she will bring it in her performance. Okay. Musical cast and Green Day together. Let's watch.

8:11 Scott: Ooh, iPad!

8:06 Scott: It works for me. I could do without the smudge marks on the face, but their voices blend nicely and she keeps up musically with him.

8:05 SHB My Dad just called her Lady ZaGa. HA!

8:03 SHB: Okay Scott, can she hang with Elton?

8:02 Scott: She still scares me, but Lady Gaga does have an interesting voice. Lots of different colors.

7:56 Scott: Another classical award, Best Instrumental Soloist Performance without Orchestra went to "Journey to the New World" performed by Joan Baez and Mark O'Connor. So a performance by a folk singer and a fiddler, hmm.

7:51 Scott: Some of the comments at the Fashion Cam are really catty. But I like it that they identify the people for ignoramuses like me.

7:46 Scott: Lady Gaga scares me a little.

7:41 SHB: E! has live coverage now too. Lady Gaga is too much. Love her.

7:38 SHB: For anyone interested, the Fashion Cam on is priceless.

7:34 Scott: Probably very few. We aren't as pretty as the pop/rock people.

7:32 SHB: Does that mean none of the classical people will be on the red carpet? Because I need you to ID all the people I can't.

7:12 Scott: Of course the classical awards are given out off-camera. The Best Engineered Classical Album went to MTT and the San Francisco Symphony's recording of Mahler: Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major - Adagio from Symphony No. 10.

5:51 SHB: Got it. Coverage starts in 9 minutes on TV Guide Channel. Woot!

5:46 Scott: This is the preliminary post of our liveblog.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Guest Bloggers

I'm going to be trying something new in the next few weeks, having some guest bloggers. First up, SHB will be providing color commentary as I attempt to liveblog the Grammy's tomorrow night. And then in a week Kim Witman of the Wolftrap Opera Blog will be writing a guest post about the upcoming season. As the Wolftrap Opera Company is nominated for Best Opera Recording, this makes for a nice connection.

Friday, January 29, 2010

FriPod: Love

A little early for Valentine's Day, but any day is a good day to listen to music about love.

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


I've been told that salons are coming back. Small, intimate spaces where people share their talents and converse for entertainment. Just in time, Schubert, king of the salon, is getting a make-over:

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

FriPod: Funny

Tonight I'm going to see some stand up comedy, thus today's theme.

1. "My Funny Valentine" by Rodgers and Hart, performed by a) Chet Baker, b) Matt Damon (!) on The Talented Mr. Ripley soundtrack.

2. "It's a Funny Thing Waking Up Under Occupation" by Stephen Hartke, performed by Dorothy Byrne and the Glimmerglass Opera.

3. Feelin' Kinda Patton comedy album by Patton Oswalt.

4. "Track by Track Video Commentary" by Spinal Tap on Back from the Dead.

5. III. Giocoso from Concerto No. 2 for Trumpet (1954) by André Jolivet, performed by Wynton Marsalis.

6. IV. Allegretto Giocoso from Sonata For Trumpet and Piano by Fisher Tull, performed by Terry Everson.

7. III. Finale: Giocosa-Allegro from Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra (1949) by Henri Tomasi, performed by Wynton Marsalis.

8. III. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace from Concerto in D, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms, performed by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

9. Intermezzo in C major: Grazioso e giocoso, Op. 119 No. 3 by Brahms, performed by Radu Lupu.

10. Giocoso from Heldenmusik by Georg Philip Telemann, performed by the Empire Brass.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Are YOU hip and cool?

My students and non-musician friends often rib me for being clueless about contemporary popular music. So I've been given a list of forty songs to know "when you are a classical expert and want to be hip and cool" by one of these non-musician friends. I knew a grand total of five (bolded below) before being sent the list, and am now slowly working my way through the rest. As I know from chats with other classical musicians, I am not alone in my cluelessness about Fiona Apple or The Fray. So here is the list for all of you. And for you readers who are worldly in that new-fangled pop music, feel free to add your own songs to the list.

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

I couldn't do much to celebrate MLK Day today, as there was school to make up for a snow day (I'm not happy with that display of priorities by the school board) and I had a sick child at home, preventing me from going to one of the local events. I did listen to some MLK speeches on NPR while waiting to pick up the healthy child from school, and talked about MLK with both kids. What inspires me about Martin Luther King is that he knew that when a righteous battle seems hopeless, that is exactly when you need to fight most. Of course, it becomes more difficult when it isn't clear that the battle is righteous, or that the means of conducting the battle are the most effective. May we all have the wisdom to determine the right course and the strength to follow it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

FriPod: Sacred Spaces

Yes, the first thing that may come to mind may be churches or other religious houses, cemeteries, museums, or a hidden valley, but sacred space can also be something spiritual rather than physical. A zone of conversation kept free of the troubles in life can be a sacred space, or a series of shared beautiful experiences. In all of the cases above, a sacred space helps build special relationships with ourselves, with a higher power, with other people.

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!

Apparently January is Math Madness Month, at least at Taylor & Francis publishing company. They are offering free online access to the current and back content for all of their math and statistics journals through January 31st. Why am I mentioning this here, on a music blog? Because one of these free journals is the Journal of Mathematics and Music. (They also have the Journal of Mathematics and the Arts.) This is a new journal, only 3 years old, on the uses of mathematical analysis to explore various aspects of music. This isn't a new thing, heck Pythagoras (or someone else) talked about the mathematical relationships in musical sounds back in the 5th century BC. But new things are constantly being found, and it was decided to give a common home to a variety of approaches to this general subject from the perspectives of music theory, neuroscience, mathematics, statistics, and physics. As an example, here are the articles in the most recent issue:
"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

Music Plagiarism

I've been reading Popdose lately, partially to bring my pop sensibilities to the twenty-first century, partially because Chad Orzel quoted part of their Mellowmas series and it was too funny. In my readings I came across this comparison of Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" and 4 Non Blondes "What's Up?", both from a pop era with which I am much more familiar. First, this reminded me of a post I wrote awhile ago on Nickelback, about what makes up a song's identity. To be fair to Dw. Dunphy, the melody starts almost identically for McFerrin and 4 Non Blondes, allowing for the shift from reggae beats to a straight four on the floor. But the second half the stanza for "What's Up?" is different, and it is definitely the hook for that song. And, I really like the mashup between these two songs, the juxtaposition of opposite emotions on the same harmonic base appeals to me.

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

Last night I was eating dinner at 14 West, which had a great pianist/singer providing music. But what was notable was the fact that he was using a music tablet. SHB and I noticed this, and started debating whether he would know a particular song, the Frim Fram Sauce.
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

1. "Frogs" from E.T. soundtrack by John Williams.
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!

Remember that scene in Three Men and a Baby, when Tom Selleck's character is reading an article about boxing to the little baby? Steve Gutenberg is horrified, but Tom says that it doesn't matter what the words are, just the tone matters. Well, a new study in Infant Behavioral Development shows that the tone does indeed matter. CD Tsang and NJ Conrad of the University of Western Ontario did a study on infants' pitch preferences in lullabies and and playsongs. The babies preferred low-pitched lullabies and high-pitched playsongs, showing that tone is indeed the most important communication of emotion. Tom. Selleck. is. a. genius.

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


Over on Crooked Timber, an aesthetic discussion broke out, provoked by an outrageous line in an article by Richard Dorment:
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

Hi, how's it going? Yes, it's been a little while since I last wrote in this blog. My writing efforts were going towards some academic articles and a book to which I was contracted to contribute, The Daily Book of Classical Music. I was in charge of 39 days, all about compositional structures. I particularly had fun figuring out how to explain rotational form without getting too technical or too philosophical, in 250 words. This has been a fun experience, with very good editors and a nice paid venue for all my blog-style writing. Now that I've submitted my final batch of days, I can get back to my (mostly) non-paid blog-style writing here, on a blog. And I'll start with some 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.