Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Letter from Milton Babbitt

Bernard Zaslav received this letter from Milton Babbitt on April 16, 2005, a few months after the release of the Zaslav Duo’s recording of Babbitt’s 1950 “Composition for Viola and Piano” on the Music and Arts label (CD 1151). Zaslav sent a copy of the recording to the composer, and got this response.
Dear Bernie,

Can you forgive unforgivable delay in responding to your communication, and--more--the wonderful recording?

My only excuse is that these past eight years have not been the best of times. Sylvia, after being crippled by PMR, had three strokes which have left her bedridden in an “extended care facility.” We were driven from our New York apartment by landlords and lawyers on the basis that we did not spend enough time there (of course, since Sylvia was in the “hospital”).

In any event, I am in Princeton, and go to Juilliard on Monday, returning to Princeton on Tuesday, and trying to live in our little faculty house with all of our New York possessions crowding the place and in storage. My dear daughter spends most of her time here (rather than in her home in Mass.) driving me around. I see Sylvia every morning and try to get some work done: Jimmy Levine did the work that the Boston Symphony commissioned in January, but I don’t get around much any more, which merely intensifies my sense of nostalgia when I receive a gift such as your performance, for which a million thanks.

Love to both of you from both of us,


Sylvia Babbitt died on October 28, 2005.
The work Babbitt referred to was the premiere of the 2004 “Concerti for Orchestra” in January, 2005.

Babbitt Composition for Viola and Piano

Milton Babbitt wrote this in 1950, lived until the age of 94, and died yesterday. The Zaslav Duo (Bernard Zaslav, viola and Naomi Zaslav, piano) recorded this in the 1970s.

Update: Here's a recording of the first part of Babbitt's Third Quartet, commissioned in 1970 and performed by the Fine Arts Quartet (with Bernard Zaslav playing viola). Here's the second part, and the third part.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Soft Viola

(Thanks to Michael for the link.)
Oldenburg and van Bruggen have other whimsical sculptures too.

And here's Oldenburg's Soft Viola Island

which, like the Soft Viola sculpture, is at the Whitney Museum.

As nifty as these may be, my cellist friend Martha pointed out that they are not actually violas, because the instruments in both works of art have end pins.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I came across a very enlightening passage while reading Geerat J. Vermeij's The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civiliztion. Vermeij, who is blind, learns everything he knows about the natural world (and he knows a lot) through his sense of touch, sound, smell, and taste. He took part in a program for blind children who were interested in science, and hoped he could share his childhood love of shells with these children (from pages 38-39).
Each child was handed a shell, which I then asked him or her to describe. After this first encounter, we could begin to prove the many oddities of form and ornamentation that these shells displayed so well. I hoped to duplicate for these children the wonder I literally felt when, and the age of ten, I first encountered shells from Florida and other exotic places. . . .

I did not expect the children to notice the kinds of detail I look for, but I hoped they would take the time to inspect these objects carefully, given that few if any of the children would have handled anything like them previously. Each specimen expressed a wealth of tactile features, which cannot be grasped with a cursory inspection. Yet a cursory examination is all that these shells elicited. Adult observers in the room told me that it took about one second for a child to pick up the shell, examine it, and put it down without further touching. A bit of probing confirmed that these children had reached adolescence without having acquired the habit of automatic exploration through the sense of touch. Did this reflect a pervasive lack of curiosity? Had no teacher, parent, or sibling shown these children the pleasures and rewards of close tactile observation? Is there an unspoken assumption that gaining experience through touch comes naturally, especially to a person without sight? I came away from this experience convinced that observation, like reading and writing, is a skill that must be nurtured and honed before it becomes an unconscious habit of mind.
Vermeij's observation can apply to just about anything. I suppose the whole process of teaching is sharing tools of observation with students. People with a perfectly functional set of five senses can be lacking in the most important sense of all: the sense of how to use them in order to learn something about the world (or about music, or about themselves). Perhaps we are not born with natural curiosity. Perhaps it needs to be taught (and learned) in order for us to grow into fully aware human beings.

There's a saying in the Stevens Hewitt oboe method that reads, "the only education is the education of the feelings." I would add the education of the senses to this saying.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Exercise in Bad Taste

It is interesting to follow the controversy surrounding a piece Lang Lang chose to play at the recent White House state dinner. I can't help but noticing that the name of the composer of the popular (and populist) song he played isn't mentioned in any of the articles about the performance. The composer's name is not listed in the IMDB listing for its source (and the source of the controversy), the film Shang gan ling.

My choice for Chinese State Dinner entertainment would be something by Ma Sicong, perhaps the Song of Nostalgia.

There is a lot that China has to offer musically, if you look in the right places.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bernard Herrmann's Concerto Macabre

Last night Michael and I watched Hangover Square. The real star of this film (which is a film about music) is the music, particularly this exquisite Piano Concerto.

Here's one spectacular scene:

and the trailer:

And you can actually watch the whole movie for free (and right now) on Hulu! The final scene (from about 01:06) is simply mind blowing. There is one moment when the music, which is clearly in the foreground, begins to illustrate the action, thus keeping one foot in the foreground and another in the background.

The Future of Telephony as Seen from 1962

You can see the whole thing at Paleofuture.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Classical Music" vs. "Popular Music" in the Library

While I was in the stacks of a public library yesterday (in a larger city than my city), I noticed that the music section was divided between what would be termed "classical music," and a mishmash of what would be loosely termed "non-classical music." Books about jazz were interspersed with books about blues and books about non-western (another broad classification, I know) music. The "non-classical" section was about five times larger than the "classical" section. This is a public library, and it follows the Dewey Decimal System, which organizes a library's collection of books about music (as opposed to actual printed music) under the numbers 780 and 781.

The Library of Congress organizes its books about music this way:

In the 19th century, when these systems were created (Dewey and LOC ), nobody had any idea that books about "popular music" (ML 3469-3541), "dance music" (ML 3400-3465), and "folk, national or ethnic music" (ML 3544-3776) or Dewey's "kinds of music" (781.5), and "traditions of music" (781.6), would outnumber books about the rest of the field.

And what's up with Dewey's 780.8? What does he mean by "kinds of persons?"

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Six Degrees of Musical Separation

Here's a new "six degrees" game I invented that can work horizontally or it can reach back in time. The one rule is that you need to have played with or studied with the person who is one degree from you, and the rest of the people need to have played with or studied with the person to either side of their names on the list.

Here's a sample:

My father (Burton Fine)
Rudolf Serkin
Pablo Casals
Richard Strauss
Hans von Bülow
Johannes Brahms
Clara Schumann


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Snows of Yesteryear

Michael made this drawing of me out in the snow with my viola on my back several winters ago. The snows seem to have returned. But now I find myself asking the question, "Where are the snowplows of yesteryear?"

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Dream We All Share

Range of Emotions and the Musical Discourse

I got rather angry while listening to the "To the Best of our Knowledge" podcast called Why Do We Love Sad Songs, because I found the explanations of the "experts" ranged between the superficial monochromatic and the downright wrong.

Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't consider the proper way to describe the Barber Adagio as "sad?" Hearing or playing it stimulates a range of emotions in me. Some of those emotions have names, and some that do not. I find hearing it played well allows me to have great range of emotional reactions. There are times during any given reading of it when I feel exhilarated, and times when the music makes me feel tense, there are times when I feel sure-footed, and times when the music makes me question. I respond to the various timbers and use of tessitura by having different physical reactions. I respond to the lengths of the phrases, and the way they ebb and flow, and I feel differently--a whole new "cocktail" of differently--each time I hear it.

I fear that musical discussions like the ones in the aforementioned podcast are leading the basic stuff of musical discourse down the path of one dimensionality. Music is something far greater than happy or sad, and the elements in music that tug on our various emotional strings are far more sophisticated than describing the function of a descending major or a minor third in root position, and being done with it. The major = happy and minor = sad argument falls terribly short when discussing a piece of music by an emotionally off the chart composer like Beethoven. I lose patience when adults talk about major thirds being happy and minor ones being sad (and nobody ever mentions their emotionally-confusing inversions).

Children can often be quite creative and open when they describe their feelings, particularly when someone is willing to listen. People seem to be born with a rainbow of emotions, and ways of expressing them, but too many people lose them along with their baby teeth. Consider this cartoon that our son drew when he was nine or ten (Gran is a cartoon character that Ben used to draw back when he was a member of the Junior Cartoonists Society):

Fortunately he has been able to retain (and even expand) his emotional vocabulary into adulthood.

One of the instructor evaluation questions that students at my community college are asked to answer each semester is whether the instructor is able to simplify complicated material. I believe that what we seek from music is not the simple, but the complex, and we are often drawn to the emotional complexity in music that seems simple on the surface. Consider the monophonic Dies Irae. I could write volumes about this piece, if I only had the skill and vocabulary to do so. It reaches beyond the part of me that needs to represent thoughts in language. I can tell you why I like it, or why it's important, or what the words mean, or the tradition of incorporating it into to other works, but I can't really articulate the way it makes me feel. I can tell you one thing though, I wouldn't restrict my vocabulary to words like "happy" and "sad."

Perhaps one of the indications of what people like to call the "decline of classical music" is the sound-bite nature of using simple concepts to describe something that, in its most successful form, defies the use of (or need for) words. Culturally we are rather immature when it comes to talking about complicated feelings. Some of us have a difficult time when we encounter music that is too "intense" and requires too much of our attention, particularly if it is vocal music.

I believe that music that stimulates and draws upon deep emotional experiences will always be with us (though it might not be as easy to find in the future), and I believe that there will always be people who desire emotional musical substance in their lives, even if it happens rather late in adulthood.

When things get rough we need to remember that we do what we do for those people (many who will remain completely unknown to us) as well as for our own emotional health.

Ginastera concerto for Harp and Kitchen Tools

There's something kind of "right" about this video made by harpist Elizabeth Jaxon:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Top Ten, Once Again

I noticed some heated (and not entirely civil) discussion over at the Iron Tongue of Midnight concerning the over-analyzed (and pretty much limited to chapters 13 through 20 of the first edition (1960) of Grout) classical top ten list that the New York Times tossed into the virtual fishtank that is the musical blogosphere. Late last night I put a comment on one of Lisa's older posts, and I thought I'd repeat it here with some links and annotations.
Only a few top ten lists makes sense at all. Perhaps they can be divided into a few categories. Here's my top ten list of musical top ten lists (off the top of my head).

1. One that is funny and has nothing to do with anything meaningful (David Letterman-style)

2. One that has its participants limited to the numbers one through ten. Even with that kind of restriction, we would have serious arguments about which number is most important. I know that one is the loneliest. To prove the usefulness of the above item 1, David Letterman took this challenge on many years ago.

3. One where you really have to dig to get all ten slots filled, like the top ten ways you can slice a sandwich.

4. One that involves a control and a narrow span of time, like the top ten opera composers born before 1685.

5. One that lists the top ten arguments for Wagner being included on a list of top ten composers and not Verdi.

6. One that lists the top ten arguments for Verdi being included on a list of top ten composers and not Wagner.

7. The top ten reasons that Hildegard is considered an important composer.

8. The top ten songs from the Carmina Burana. (This will take a great deal of time to make, but the research does afford a great deal of pleasure.)

9. The top ten most prolific and least important composers of all time.

10. The top ten reasons for Tommasini to have written his article in the first place.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Grandma's Lye Soap

Last summer while Michael and I went on vacation in New York, a nice lady in a very nice hardware store sold us some Grandma's Lye Soap. She said she used it for washing her face (and she had very nice skin). We bought two cakes, and have been using it daily on our hands and faces ever since. The other day Michael put a cake of it in the kitchen, and, on a lark, I decided to use it to try to clean the grimy outside of our stainless steel tea kettle. The grime came off instantly (with the help of a scouring pad), and the thing looks like new.

I tried it on what I thought was a permanent stain on my yellow ceramic teapot, and the stain is now gone. Nothing else has ever worked. So what does this have to do with music, aside from keeping me from practicing (but you should see my kitchen!)? It turns out that Johnny Standley and Art Thorsen wrote a song about Grandma's Lye Soap. I know from practical experience that the secret is not in the scrubbing: it's in the soap!
Do you remember Grandma's Lye Soap,
Good for everything in the home,
And the secret was in the scrubbing,
It wouldn't suds, and wouldn't foam,

Oh, let us sing right out (sing out!)
For Grandma's Lye Soap,
Sing it out, all over the place!
For pots and pans, and dirty dishes,
And for your hands,
And for your face!

Little Therman, and Brother Herman,
Had an aversion to washing their ears...
Grandma scrubbed them with her lye soap,
And they haven't heard a word in years!

Oh, let us sing right out (sing out!)
For Grandma's Lye Soap,
Sing it out, all over the place!
For pots and pans, and dirty dishes,
And for your hands,
And for your face!

Mrs. O'Malley, out in the valley,
Suffered from ulcers, I understand,
She swallowed a cake of Grandma's Lye Soap,
Has the cleanest ulcers in the land!

Oh, let us sing right out (sing out!)
For Grandma's Lye Soap,
Sing it out, all over the place!
For pots and pans, and dirty dishes,
And for your hands,
And for your face!

Alternate Verse:

Mrs. O'Malley
Down in the valley
had a hound, I understand.
It swallowed a cake
Of Grandma's lye soap.
Now it's the cleanest hound in all the land

Oh, let us sing right out (sing out!)
For Grandma's Lye Soap,
Sing it out, all over the place!
For pots and pans, and dirty dishes,
And for your hands,
And for your face!

We're off to the hardware store to buy more of this magic soap.

Will Play Weddings

I have been playing weddings for around 20 years within a 100-mile radius of my corner of the American Midwest. These days, and in these parts, wedding preludes offer many people their first chance to hear "classical music" played for them in a quiet place where everyone is listening to living and breathing human beings play it. When an ensemble (I can speak for a string quartet, which is my wedding ensemble of choice) tailors its tempo and mood in response to the tempo and mood of the wedding decor and the wedding party, and adjusts the timings (not to mention choice) of selections to the people getting married and their families, it makes the experience especially moving and memorable for everyone involved.

The quality of the group really does matter. Musicians who consider playing for weddings their performances miss the mark, in my opinion. Musicians who consider playing for weddings "just a gig" also miss the mark. Playing a wedding is about the people getting married, and about their families and their friends. For the bride and groom, this is the first most important day of their life together.

Wedding musicians are indeed humble servants. They are there to make everything sound as beautiful as it looks, allow everything to move properly, and to help people allow their feelings to come to the surface. This is what professional musicians do: they enhance the experience without dominating it.

Ensembles made of professionals do not come cheap, but the current internet-based way of finding ensembles for weddings cheapens musicians. It treats music as a commodity that can be bargained for, much the same way you would take a bid from a building contractor, compare it to another contractor, and hire the one that offers a lower price.

Internet shopping always involves comparing prices and opting for the lowest one, but most internet shopping transactions involve things, and music is not a thing. One organization dealing in the music-for-hire trade charges musicians a modest listing fee, and buys premium space (for its organization) so that its listings come up at the top of regional searches for musicians, thus demoting the ensembles' own internet listing to a place further down on any search engine's listings. Some organizations take a "finder's fee" from clients that is a percentage of the fee that the ensemble charges. Some encourage musicians to bid against one another for jobs, which means that in order to get a particular job, a musician is compelled to lower his or her usual (and often reasonable and modest) fee and/or travel expenses.

Musicians are encouraged to "sell themselves." Internet shoppers are encouraged to respond to musicians' "blurbs" the way they are encouraged to choose one piece of electronic equipment over another. I think that it is safer, for everyone involved, to hire musicians the old fashioned way: by personal recommendation.

People talk about "classical music" (as if it is an entity in itself) being in trouble. I would say that pitting one musician against another in order to get work, and making it possible for "buyers" who don't really know the difference between great and adequate (from what they can learn from the internets) to bargain for lower fees from musicians, is one way to eat away at the livelihoods of professional classical musicians.

Would you pick a doctor or a dentist based on the one who offers the lower fee?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Remember Nothing

I buy Nora Ephron's books in hardcover at full price because I get tremendous pleasure from reading them. By writing this book of essays (as well as writing I Feel Bad About My Neck) she has become my very public friend. We share a great deal (even though we haven't met). So I'm offering a very public recommendation to all my other public friends (who I may know and may not know) who might be reading this blog. I was introduced by Nora Ephron's writing by a (private) friend who told me that she was "one of us." She is. If you happen to read this, Nora, here's a public hug and a great big thank you.

Janet Maslin's review in The New York Times describes the book extremely well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

If I had a Hammer

Kenneth Woods led me to this post by Gene De Lisa about Mahler's Sixth Symphony that has a bunch of videos depicting some of the fateful hammer strokes (and various hammers and boxes) used in different performances the piece.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Verklärte Nacht Einmal Anders

Perhaps the only good that Anna Karkowska has done for the musical world at large is to inspire parodies like this one. It is 15 minutes long, so if you don't have that kind of time, just let it load and watch the last few minutes, where you will hear the beginning of Verklärte Nacht using Karkowska's slow vibrato technique.

How Musical are You?

Here's an excerpt from the BBC Lab UK press release:
‘How Musical Are You?’ was designed by BBC Lab UK in collaboration with academics from the Music, Mind and Brain group at Goldsmiths, University of London. The scientific data will be analysed to establish whether people who are untrained but passionate about music can be just as musical as people who have been formally trained.
Take the BBC test. Perhaps we can give them a realistic sample.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Top Ten? Oh Really?

Anthony Tommasini seems to have forgotten all about the composers of the Renaissance (and the Middle Ages, for that matter) in his top ten list. Shame on him for omitting Palestrina, Josquin, or Monteverdi, even on a very short list.

Still Life

This four-minute-long film was posted (by the filmmaker) as a response to yesterday's Wall Street Journal article.

Happy 90th Birthday Seymour!

Seymour Barab is 90 today!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Is this what music is supposed to be about?

I could feel my blood run cold while reading this article. Here's a scenario where 7-year-old Lulu is having some trouble playing Ibert's Petit Ane Blanc.
Lulu couldn't do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.

"Get back to the piano now," I ordered.

"You can't make me."

"Oh yes, I can."

Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu's dollhouse to the car and told her I'd donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn't have "The Little White Donkey" perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, "I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?" I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn't do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

Please read the whole article, and leave your comments below. I'm speechless.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Indiana Time

INx = Indiana Time

Two members of my string quartet live in Indiana, so we always need to be concerned with the time of our various engagements. The other day I got an e-mail message from one of our Indiana members with the abbreviation INx for "Indiana Time."

I assumed that it was standard, but, thanks to a thorough search by my trusty researcher (who is postponing the real work he needs to do), I believe it is possible to suggest that this brilliant abbreviation might be singular.

He suggested I share this on my blog, so here it is.

It's Not Easy Being a Green Duck

I just happened upon this juxtaposition, and had to document it. Yes. We do have a green glow-in-the-dark duck in our bathroom.

The Right Tool for the Right Job

I don't quite understand why an ensemble that specializes in using techniques associated with non-acoustic playing would even be interested in using the Stradivarius instruments in the Whittall Collection. I think that Dan Visconti misses the mark when he makes a stab at making an analogy to new computer technology:
Just as when trying out a new MIDI keyboard controller or trackball, there's a period of learning and eventual calibration when confronting any new technology—by which I mean, technology that is new to us. Whether that technology is a rare one-off made of wood and varnish or one of Steve Jobs' mass-produced microchip wonders, the essential challenge is unchanged. Perhaps if we had more chances to see the technological wonders of yesteryear strut their stuff, we might come to develop a renewed awareness of our own role among the multitude of devices and innovations that we enjoy but rarely pause to appreciate.
Stradivarius was not creating a new technology. He and his other great contemporary makers made instruments that had the properties of the ideal human voice. Each stringed instrument is unique, in the way that each voice is unique. Stradivarius' goal was to continue (and perfect) a great local tradition of craftsmanship, and each of his instruments is perfect and unique in its own way. A great tool can only be great in the hands of a person who understands how to use it, and playing a Stradivarius through electronic equipment might not really be any better than playing a $1,000 student instrument through electronic equipment.

I remember years ago I was playing flute duets with Robert Dick, the Dean of extended flute techniques. When he tried my flute (a typical ritual), he played a few whistle tones and a couple of multiphonics on it, and then he handed it back to me saying, "Nice flute."

It wasn't a particularly nice instrument, by the way. They make 'em much better now.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Cake Art

I am amazed by the work of Smita Kasargod who goes by the "stage" name of Kassie. I suppose this is what happens when real artists get their hands on fondant.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Study in Contrast

This song by Donikkl:

I lieg gern im Gras
Und schau zum Himmel hinauf
Schauen die ganzen Wolken
Ned lustig aus?
Und fliagt a Flieger vorbei,
Dann wink I zu eam nauf.
Hallo Flieger!
Und bist du a no dabei,
dann bin I super drauf


Und I fliag, fliag, fliag wia a Flieger,
Bin so stark, stark, stark wia a Tiger
Und so groß, groß, groß wia a Giraffe
So hoch (wo-o-o)
Und I spring, spring, spring immer wieder
Und I schwimm, schwimm, schwimm zu Dir nüber
Und I nimm, nimm, nimm Di bei da Hand,
Weil I Di mog
Und I sog

Heit is so a schöner Tag
Heit is so a schöner Tag
Heit is so a schöner Tag

. . . and Mahler's take on a similar experience (but with a pessimistic twist at the end).

Ging heut morgen übers Feld,
Tau noch auf den Gräsern hing;
Sprach zu mir der lust'ge Fink:
"Ei du! Gelt? Guten Morgen! Ei gelt?
Du! Wird's nicht eine schöne Welt?
Zink! Zink! Schön und flink!
Wie mir doch die Welt gefällt!"

Auch die Glockenblum' am Feld
Hat mir lustig, guter Ding',
Mit den Glöckchen, klinge, kling,
Ihren Morgengruß geschellt:
"Wird's nicht eine schöne Welt?
Kling, kling! Schönes Ding!
Wie mir doch die Welt gefällt! Heia!"

Und da fing im Sonnenschein
Gleich die Welt zu funkeln an;
Alles Ton und Farbe gewann
Im Sonnenschein!
Blum' und Vogel, groß und Klein!
"Guten Tag,
ist's nicht eine schöne Welt?
Ei du, gelt? Schöne Welt!"

Nun fängt auch mein Glück wohl an?
Nein, nein, das ich mein',
Mir nimmer blühen kann!

(Thanks to Jason for posting the video of Tobias Winhart and his little blue bass.)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Rant on the Simultaneous Rarity and Plentitude of Genius

Some of the benefits of being able to access on-line libraries like the WIMA or the Petrucci Library, sharing musical performances through YouTube, and having relatively few complications related to making recordings of new music or music in the public domain (aside from figuring out how to pay for making them), is that we are now able to understand that there have been a far greater number of people of what we like to call "genius" than we ever thought possible.

Most of us measure ourselves against people who can do and have done wonderful things. "I could never do that" is the usual response that someone might have after reading about or hearing about someone who "accomplished" something. There are exceptions, but the "never could" often turns itself into a "never will." Perhaps we spend so much energy measuring that it takes up too much of our time and our creative energy. My response is simply not to measure. It saves a great deal of time, and makes more room for creativity and the pleasure I get from seeing, hearing, and reading wonderful music and literature.

Success in music has become intertwined with the accepted capitalist view of success. It seems that we have to keep making more music in order to show any sort of cultural "profit," that is, if there is anybody who cares. Sometimes, when life circumstances make it difficult to keep accomplishing, a composer might not feel able to "produce." A composer without the regular stimulation from people who want to play and hear his or her music might not be as motivated to write as a composer who knows that the music he or she is writing will be played by people who want to play it, and heard by people who want to hear it.

I'm starting to believe that most music goes unheard.

At the beginning of my musical adulthood, the list of later 18th-century and early 19th-century composers (composers of the Classical Period, if you will) numbered in the scores. As of today, the Petrucci library lists 553, and these were 553 composers who had their music published. I imagine that number will double soon, since music from library collections all over the world is constantly being scanned into their on-line library.

A few composers, like Marianne Auenbrugger and Francesco Zappa (I couldn't resist that name) published only one piece (as far as we know), and some well-known composers were more prolific than anyone would have imagined, like Johann Nepomuk Hummel (this list reflects just a fraction of his total output). There were also prolific (and excellent) composers like Anton Ferdinand Titz who wrote music that didn't survive the consequences of time (as well as wars, revolutions, and natural enemies like fire, water, and decomposition).

A chunk of time spent in a library (of any kind--on line or physical) can show that creativity is part of the human spirit, but it also reveals how limited we all are. As a culture we have become a society of consumers of ready-made products. We have limited room in our virtual homes for all the treasures of the past (and the present) that we have at our fingertips, and we have proportionately limited time to enjoy them. Many of us lack to the skills, whether they be language skills or music reading skills, to evaluate what we find. This deficit exists within a greater popular culture that regularly asks opinions from "non-experts" on matters having to do with government and musical ability, and then accepts those opinions as being worthwhile data for measurement. Cable news reporters include audience surveys in their newscasts, newspapers regularly ask their readership to respond to on-line questionnaires, and then as "consumers" we are constantly urged to equate quantity of response with the quality of the product (performance, idea, candidate).

Perhaps it is a good thing that the world of "classical music" (or at least my world of "classical music") tends to function separately from "everything else."