Tag Archive: music

Dec 25 2021

Carol of the Bells

Twitter is a strange place. Depending on who you follow or what you read in the news on the internet that leads you there, it can be informative and educational. A blog post led me to a tweet where I found this tweeted response   And Carol of the Bells is based on a Ukrainian …

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Dec 25 2020

Carol of the Bells

Twitter is a strange place. Depending on who you follow or what you read in the news on the internet that leads you there, it can be informative and educational. A blog post led me to a tweet where I found this tweeted response   And Carol of the Bells is based on a Ukrainian …

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May 04 2020

Making Magic In A Pandemic

From the Juilliard School of Dance, Drama, and Music: Creating Bolero: Creating Bolero Juilliard In normal times, Juilliard’s halls are buzzing with collaborations: string quartets, jazz ensembles, and singers rehearsing in practice rooms on the fourth floor; dancers creating new choreography on the third floor; HP students embellishing bass lines together in Room 554, the …

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Dec 25 2019

Carol of the Bells

Twitter is a strange place. Depending on who you follow or what you read in the news on the internet that leads you there, it can be informative and educational. A blog post led me to a tweet where I found this tweeted response   And Carol of the Bells is based on a Ukrainian …

Continue reading »

Oct 01 2019

Abby Road: 50 Years

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of release in the United States of the Beatles eleventh and final album, Abby Road To celebrate, the album was re-released with rare sessions and outtakes.

Dec 24 2016

The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

Republished from Dec 22, 2013 Trans Siberian Orchestra The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

Dec 24 2015

The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

Trans Siberian Orchestra The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve

May 24 2015

Fifty Years of Music and Activism with Buffy Sainte-Marie

Back in 1964 musician, songwriter, pacifist, and activist Buffy Saint-Marie wrote the song “Universal Soldier,” one of the best known songs of the anti-war movement of the 60’s. Last week she spent an hour with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Juan González to talk about her music and her activism.

Democracy Now! Special: An Hour of Music and Conversation with Legendary Native American Singer-Songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie

The transcript can be found here

In a Democracy Now! special, an hour of conversation and music with Cree Indian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. In the turbulent 1960s, she was just out of college but already famous for her beautiful voice and moving lyrics in songs like “Universal Soldier” and “Now that the Buffalo’s Gone.” Over the years, Buffy Sainte-Marie has worked with the American Indian Movement, but also with Sesame Street, and even Hollywood, winning an Academy Award for the song “Up Where We Belong” in 1982. She’s won international recognition for her music, has a PhD in fine arts, and began a foundation for American Indian Education that she remains closely involved with. We speak with the folk icon about her life, her music, censorship, and her singing and speaking out about the struggles of Native American peoples for the past four decades. She also performs live in the firehouse studio.

Apr 04 2015

The Breakfast Club (Peter Cottontail)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgThere’s only one time of year when a performance of Handel’s Messiah is chronologically correct and that is Easter.

Oh sure, the First Act deals with the birth of Jesus as fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy and the annunciation of the shepherds, but it’s only one of three.  The bulk of them are about his passion and death, his resurrection, and his ascension (Act II); and redemption, the Day of Judgement, general resurrection, and the ultimate triumph over sin and death and the universal acclamation of Christ (Act III).

As a matter of fact that famous Hallelujah Chorus, the only part anyone bothers with generally?  Act II Finale.

Sorry to ruin your holiday season folks.

While I’m sure Handel would be gratified by the events that mostly consist of gathering the largest group possible to unmusically caterwaul a tricky piece to do well and one that almost nobody knows the right words to as a testament to his enduring popularity, I suspect that he would agree with me that they are best listened to buried among the mass of performers under the influence of an appropriate amount of ek’smas cheer.

The original work is rather modestly scored for a small orchestra and choir with soloists, to be performed in a hall of medium size.  The fashion for large scale performances didn’t start until 1784, 42 years after the debut.  It has always commonly been performed for charitable benefits.

Another interesting feature of this piece is that it’s an archetype of Oratorio structure.  Handel made his mark on the English musical scene as a composer of Italian Operas which were very popular from 1711 until about 1730.  He wrote over 40 of them.  He amassed a small fortune but was increasingly dependent on wealthy patrons to stage his oratorios, anthems and organ concertos.  One particular sponsor was Charles Jennens who is generally credited with the libretto, which is in English.  Handel wrote the music in 24 days.

Now this is not unusual for an Opera and that’s basically what an Oratorio is.  The 3 Act structure is exactly the same as the Italian Operas Handel was used to composing and the only distinguishing features are that there are no costumes, there is no acting, and the sacred nature of the subject.  Handel had composed similar Oratorios when Opera was temporarily banned in Italy (counter-Reformation Fundamentalism).

Anyway, without further adieu the Messiah, all 2 hours and 38 minutes of it.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Mar 07 2015

The Breakfast Club (My Hat It Has Three Corners)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgThree corners has my hat

And had it not three corners

It would not be my hat!

I dunno, maybe it makes more sense in Italian.

This is the famous (I mean, as far as any Renaissance Italian Folk Tune appropriated for ‘Art Music’ can be) Carnival of Venice.

Or infamous in my case as it was the audition piece for All-State Band and since my sight reading skilz are for crap I really didn’t have even a clue what it was supposed to sound like and between the triple and quadruple tounging and the rampant octave jumps (not to mention the rapid fire fingering) I could only make up in energy and enthusiasm what I lacked in technique.

You know, like your first sexual experience.

I have dissipated a youth of extreme privilege on these ephemeral photons.  I went to Summer Camp every year, sometimes twice at different places.  This year my family in Michigan pulled some strings and got me in a Youth Music program that featured lessons with the great Leonard Falcone who just happened to have arranged (that’s a technical musical term for someone who re-does an original piece for different instruments or ensembles, or changes the key or tempo to make it sound different even though it’s really the same) my audition piece.

What could go wrong?

Well, I am a horrible musician, even for a brass player, and I have a tin ear and no discipline or muscle memory whatsoever.  It took Falcone mere seconds to recognize how hopeless I was.

But he was a trooper and there were only so many Euphonium players so he was stuck with me for 2 weeks.

Towards the end I dragged out my audition piece and said-

“Do you think you can help me with this?”

“Let me hear it.”

So I embarrassed myself and he said-

“It should sound like this.”

My Hat It Has Three Corners

It wasn’t a total waste.  I did learn a lot about music and improved tremendously (though I still couldn’t get a gig in a Circus Band which is somewhat unfair to them because they are dead serious professional musicians who practice every day and then do 3 shows) and I also hooked up with this clarinetist who came to my Grandmother’s place where I had to wait for my parents to pick me up after camp was over and took me to a Drive In Movie where I got to second base with her.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about my early relationships (as amusing as they are in retrospect) what I really want to talk about is Frank Music.

Let’s set the wayback machine to August 16, 2014 where I wrote in Renaissance Man about the importance of a common musical notation that could be printed and distributed to the development of Western ‘Art’ Music.

(A)mong the signal advances musically during this time period is the development of recognizably ‘modern’ musical notation.

(T)he systematized notation of music and printing of same made the spread of musical ideas philosophy, science, and theology (the latter of which was pivotal in the political struggles of the period) much easier than previously possible.

(I)nfluence on European music was widespread, from … England to the remotest eastern principalities of the Holy Roman Empire.

The secret of … success?  The printing press and musical notation.

If you are of a certain age you’ll remember what we called Ditto machines but which were far more likely Spirit Duplicators or Mimeographs.  Man, nothing like sniffing the solvent off a fresh Ditto to give you that nice, in class, buzz.

Sheet Music for Band was reproduced the same way and it was a source of continual irritation for me that I always got the flimsiest, crappiest copies, especially since they always doubled the Tenor Sax parts (hey, at least they were in B-Flat which meant I didn’t have to do any in my head transpositions).  The problem was I didn’t understand how Sheet Music was packaged and sold.

As a Band Director you’d find a piece you liked and thought your Band could handle and then searched through catalogs and stores until you came up with an Orchestration Package.  They typically cost over $100 and included (in addition to the Conductor’s Score) original individual parts for each instrument called for by the Composer.  Since School Bands are always much larger you had to copy those so that you had one for every student to practice with.

So that’s why your teacher was always so mad at you when you lost your folder.  Those things are hard to get.

Now as it turns out Carnival of Venice was not available locally and the closest place to get a copy was Frank Music in New York City.  It was a big deal for me as it’s the first time I can remember visiting the City alone (for which I’d probably get seized by DCS now).

Frank Music is a dingy hole in the wall in Mid-town filled floor to 15 or 20 foot ceiling with shelves stacked about as close as you can the sheet music laying flat inside and layers of faded labels pasted on the dividers.  If you have any sense at all you’ll wait for a clerk to find what you want but I was adventurous and wandered around the mustiness.

In the end I found it and a copy of Arban’s (neither of which helped, see above) and escaped about $50 lighter than I went in.  With the train and lunch it was a $100 day but I could have gone golfing and spoiled a good walk.

New York City’s last classical sheet music shop closes its doors after eight decades

by Lauren Gambino, The Guardian

Friday 6 March 2015 12.33 EST

After nearly eight decades in business, Frank Music, the last classical sheet music store in New York City, will close on Friday at 5pm.

With a pencil tucked behind her ear, Heidi Rogers, the 63-year-old shopkeeper, puttered around the store, retrieving scores from the shelves piled high with music from the classics – Beethoven, Chopin, Stravinsky – to the arcane. She paused occasionally to look around at the spartan office, tucked away on the 10th floor of a midtown Manhattan building, as if keen not to forget the position of a single score.

Rogers indulged every customer – new and old – at the checkout line. With the faithful patrons who had shopped there for years, she reminisced. With the first-timers, she joked, taking digs at the “freebie” culture that brought about the store’s demise, and guessing their musical forte.

Frank Music has struggled in the internet age, as more musicians turn to Amazon or other online sellers that sell scores for less than their brick-and-mortar counterparts charge. It has also had to compete with free downloads, found on websites such as IMSLP, a virtual music library that allows users to download scores at no cost.

“To be replaced by something so inferior – it’s such an insult,” Rogers said. “But if you appeal to people’s lowest instincts, like we’re going to give you this score for nothing, it’s basically saying it has no value.”

Until the very end, Frank Music resisted the creeping digitization of the internet age. The store’s vast inventory, methodically organized by composer, is registered only in Rogers’s brain. She almost never takes credit cards; she prints handwritten receipts; and she records her sales with a pencil on a piece of loose-leaf paper.

“The way other stores bought was very different than the way I bought,” Rogers said. “They would buy 20 copies of one thing that they knew they would sell 20 copies of. I would buy one copy of 20 things they didn’t want to be bothered with.”

The store’s stock boasts, in Rogers’s estimation, hundreds of thousands of scores. The massive, and unique, inventory is what Rogers believes set the store apart.

Annie Shapero, a vocal student and fragrance reviewer, said she heard about the store’s closure on the radio and had to come in and smell the sheets of music before it was too late.

“It’s an olfactory archive,” Shapero said, holding a book to her nose and inhaling deeply. “It’s a smell that’s disappearing from this city.”

“I think it’s something that you just take for granted living here,” Shapero said. “You just think, it’s New York – it’ll always be filled with stores like that. But it’s not! It’s gone. This is it.”

I’ll miss that place, the world has changed and not for the better.

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

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