Sunday, September 09, 2018

Funeral Music

A succession of funerals and memorial services seem to form a kind of dotted line winding its way through my fifth decade of my life. It's been four years since my brother's death, and the two memorial services we had for him in Memphis (hosted by his friends there) and in Newton (hosted by my mother). And then three years ago in August we had a memorial for my father-in-law, James Leddy that was followed the next year by a memorial service for my mother.

There are people in our town in Illinois that I see regularly at the funerals of our older friends, many of whom were either musicians or people who loved to attend concerts. 'Tis, in the spirit of the writer of Ecclesiastes, the season, I suppose.

I watched the public funerals of Aretha Franklin and John McCain on television, and engaged in public on-line mourning on the internets for two people most of us never would have met.

I was really moved by Franklin's family talking about her as a mother, a grandmother, and an aunt, making dinner, giving presents, and being extremely generous to her community. I carry an indelible imprint of her voice and musicianship in my inner ear, which can, thankfully, be reinforced by listening to her recordings. That public part of her will, for that reason, never die. The private part we heard about through her family remains in the memory of those fortunate to have known her.

The funeral for John McCain moved me in a very different way. I have rarely agreed with his positions, and seriously questioned many of his choices (particularly is running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign). He is responsible for opening up that particular "Pandora's box" which brought us closer to the political atmosphere of 2018. Still, the words spoken about him by Henry Kissinger (another person who I have never been in sympathy with) moved me. And what Barack Obama said about him touched my heart. One of the last threads of decency in the Republican party died with John McCain.

I loved the music for John McCain's funeral, particularly a setting of the 23rd Psalm by John Rutter and an arrangement for soprano, string quartet and accordion of "Danny Boy" by Bruce Coughlin played on tuned-up baroque-period instruments. There were also many inventive choral and orchestral settings of well-known American songs.

I found myself writing a piece of funeral music for trombone and piano that I titled "Obsequy" after a movement of a piece for solo viola that my brother Marshall wrote. We played a recording of Marshall's "Obsequy" during a memorial service for our mother. You can hear Daniele Colombo's beautiful recording of it here.

I dedicated my Obsequy, which is very different from Marshall's Obsequy, to Abbie Conant, my favorite trombone player. You can see the music on this page of my Thematic Catalog blog. You can also listen to a computer-generated recording here.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Thoughts about Memory

When I was a child I had a good memory. I could play lots of things by memory on the violin and the recorder. I even have visual musical memories from that time. I can visualize the pages of the "A Tune A Day" book that I first learned from. I remember the wallpaper in the room of the blue house (soldiers on a blue background) on 4 Post Road that we rented in Lenox, Mass during the Tanglewood season. I remember being really happy that I finally had arms long enough to play the 1/2-size violin that someone was kind enough to bring along for the summer. I don't remember asking for it, but I must have. I had just turned seven.

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about memory and not memories, so I will leave the blue house, and jump ahead to when I started playing flute a couple of years after I had abandoned the violin. I do remember that the last childhood piece I played on the violin with the first movement of the Seitz 5th Pupil's Concerto.

I started playing flute casually in the seventh grade, and started taking it VERY seriously in eighth grade. I had to practice really diligently to make up for lost time in order to keep up with my peers. I was very competitive, so my goal was to play better than my peers.

I practiced constantly, and found that I could play just about everything I learned by memory. I liked practicing outside (it was good for building up the sound production), so it was also practical. I never actually memorized, because it wasn't necessary. With the flute all the notes are always in the same places on the instrument, so playing from memory was essentially playing by ear. I never thought about the names of the notes I was playing. I never paid attention to what keys I was playing while running through my daily hour of scales and arpeggios. The tune was always the same. My fingers obeyed my ear without any necessary intervention by my brain.

I did occasionally marvel at the fact that I could play all kinds of patterns of notes without thinking about anything except for my sound production. I could probably play my whole set of scales and the excerpts that Julius Baker had his students play as part of a daily routine right now. All the orchestral excerpts I practiced for all the auditions I took are still hard-wired, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you what key any one of them is in without having a flute in my hands.

In 1980 I participated in an international competition in Budapest where everything had to be memorized. I worked all summer on my repertoire, playing it from memory on the streets of Graz just about every day. I arrived in Budapest in September and discovered that there were people from all over the world who had unusual and enticing ways of playing that were very different from the "Baker" way of playing I had "cloned."

I met a Hungarian harpsichord player who was eager to share his (then revolutionary) ideas about playing Bach. It was so exciting and interesting to learn that some of the Bach Flute Sonatas were modeled on Italian ideas, and that some were modeled on German ideas. I started listening for the differences. I remember hearing a flutist from Italy named Massimo (he was really tall--so tall that he couldn't stay in the dormitory with the other flutists because he too tall for the beds that they had) play the C major Bach Sonata in a way that sounded so beautifully Italian. I discovered that the E-major Sonata I was planning to play was also Italianate, but I discovered it too late to "inform" my interpretation. I had memorized the piece, and couldn't incorporate what my heart wanted to do with it. I didn't make any mistakes, but I didn't make the kind of music I had wanted to make.

I didn't make it into the finals. The person who won the competition was not one of the musically-interesting flutists I had heard. Oh well.

I keep thinking that I could have been far freer with my interpretation if I had the music to play from. Using the written notes and articulation as a starting point rather than an ending point is something that I have always found liberating. I hated playing from memory in such a setting. Where other people feel musically free without music in front of them, I felt (and still feel) musically confined.

I might have performed "Syrinx" from memory a few times after that, but otherwise I don't think I have ever performed from memory again.

When I started playing the violin in my early 30s I realized that I could not play the instrument properly without thinking about the notes I was playing. I could play passages and even occasionally pages without looking at music, but I no longer had the skill to memorize. Having to remember not only the notes and rhythms, but also what position the left hand needed to be in, and what direction my bow was supposed to go was too much for me.

My recurring phrase for my memory was "mind like a sieve." But with such an attitude every musical experience can be unique. Every trip around the fish bowl is a new experience. I can play pieces that I have played every day for years (really) and experience them in new ways if I open my mind up to musical possibilities (phrasing, organization of phrases, colors, dynamics, inner rhythms). It is almost exactly the opposite of my musical experience as a flutist.

From time to time I still try to play pieces from memory. A few years ago I tried to memorize the Gavotte en Rondeau from the Bach E-major Partita (in A major on the viola). I figured the repetitive structure might be one I could work with. It was a very difficult proposition. I don't know if I succeeded, but I do know that I tried.

Last week I decided to try the later movements of the G Major Cello Suite, and I somehow succeeded at being able to play the Courante, the Minuets, and the Gigue from memory. I tried my hand at the D minor Suite this morning. I can play some of it by ear, but not by memory. I found the process of "stapling" down my interpretation and "imprinting" it into my brain is not something I want to do with this endlessly-fascinating piece that I want to still be "new" every time I play it.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

My Ramble on the The New Yorker's Survey of the "New-Music Landscape"

This week's The New Yorker includes a book review by Alex Ross that is identified in the table of contents as (oh how I remember the days when The New Yorker stood apart from all other magazines because it didn't have a table of contents) "Surveying the new-musical landscape." You can read it on page 81 of the magazine, or you can read it here. Oddly the link gives the title of the article as "the sounds of music in the twenty-first century," but what's in a title anyway, right?

The book review concerns Music after the Fall: Modern Composition and Culture Since 1989 by Tim Rutherford-Johnson. Like Ross, I know Rutherford-Johnson from his blog "The Rambler". Rutherford-Johnson has a post on his blog about the book that includes a table of contents, a short summary, and a link to a bunch of glowing reviews. The book looks interesting, and I do plan to read it.

From reading his blog from time to time over the years, I know Rutherford-Johnson is interested in a lot of music that I know little about, and have found that he doesn't write much about music that I am interested in, which is fine. There is much to know in this musical world. The menu is vast, and there is only so much room in any reasonable human stomach during any meal to consume more than a fraction of its (table of) contents at a time. And there are many restaurants in many cities, and in many towns.

Alex Ross says that Rutherford-Johnson's book has changed the way he listens to music. Wow. No book has ever done that for me.

Making the transition from living musical life as a flute player to living musical life as a violist changed the way I listen to music. As a flutist, and even as a violinist, I would listen from the top (which is so often the tune) down. Once I started playing viola in ensembles, I could actively listen to the treble from a position in the middle and to the bass from above. Even the most familiar music sounded completely different, and it drastically increased the dimension of my experience. Composing changes the way I listen to music because I can't help noticing the way other composers (both past and present) use the same elements of music I use, but in vastly different ways. Practicing Bach and Haydn on the piano also changes the way I listen to music, as well as the experience of playing the viola part of a familiar orchestral piece for the first time. Actually, every time.

Ross has sprinkled his review with the names of many female as well as male composers in this piece, even stating parenthetically, "The suffocating maleness of music history is at an end, even if the news has yet to reach most big-league orchestras and opera houses." One of these days Ross might "step out" and make the same statement without the "cloak" of parentheses. Still, it's a big leap from the days of The Rest is Noise, which I wrote a post about back in 2007. He even spends several paragraphs quoting Susan McClary. Even though I have a very different "world view" from McClary (she is an academic, I am a practicing musician), I appreciate Ross making mention of her.

He quotes McClary in relation to Steve Reich's "Different Trains," (written one year before the time Rutherford-Johnson has for the beginning of his survey). Ross says "Different Trains" "typifies the late-twentieth-century return to fundamentals--what McClary describes as 'composing for people.'"

If composers didn't compose for people before, who (or what) were they composing for?

There is a contemporary trend that some careerist composers (i.e. composers who want to make a living from composing and seek out commissions and partnerships that will keep them involved the musical "economic food chain") use to their benefit. It's the notion that music should be immediately accessible to audiences. In order to be that way it should be programmatic, and draw upon subject matter that can be explained, so that it makes the listening experience "relatable." Unfortunately the people who get left out of this equation can be the musicians themselves.

When music is written in a way that does not allow for physical grace and instrumental resonance, it is not a joy to practice, rehearse, or play. When the purpose of a musical gesture of phrase does not involve the creativity of the musicians who will be playing it (either by recognizing where it is compelled to go by the way it is written or by having a handful of equally good choices to make) what is printed on the page is merely an arrangement of pitches, rhythms, articulations, and dynamics with programmatic directions.

The minimalist repetitions that hypnotize listeners can cause tension in musicians (either from the movement or from not knowing if you are counting the repetitions correctly). In some situations complex rhythms can create tension without the opportunity for physical release. When that happens, the physical tension gets transferred to the people who are listening, and nobody has a good time.

I guess you could take McClary's comment in reference to the era that followed the prominence of strict twelve-tone music. It could easily be said that in the second part of the 20th century a lot of strict twelve-tone music (and other serial music) was written for the enjoyment of the composers who wrote it. Twelve-tone music is a lot of fun to write, and while you are in twelve-tone limbo land, where dissonance is good ("dissonance good") and consonance is to be avoided ("consonance bad"), lots of unusual and pleasurable things can happen, particularly at the keyboard, where the uniform tempered scale helps with consistency. Once you have an ensemble made of instruments that are not tempered like the piano, and once you take away any sense of tonic or dominant, playing in tune becomes a problem. You need a lot of rehearsal time to have a successful and rewarding performance.

Composers who end up writing music that is a joy to play, a joy to rehearse, and a joy to hear, are usually composers who write music for the pleasure of the musicians who will be playing it. It is the way it has always been, and as long as people blow into tubes, hit things, sing, and either draw horsehair across strings or pluck them, I believe it is the way it always will be.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Confessions of a Recovering Recovered CD Reviewer

I suppose that during the 23 twenty years I spent as a CD reviewer for the American Record Guide, my opinions about music were valid. I did listen carefully to all of the recordings I received, and I did always try to write statements that were true. How I managed write more than 50 reviews every year is a mystery to me.

I started reviewing while I working at the local university's radio station. During the Thanksgiving break of 1992, Michael and I went to the library to get a bunch of periodicals to read over the break. With a faculty card he could take periodicals out for more than one day. I remember that I got a few copies of The Strad and several issues of the American Record Guide, which I had never read.

I took issue with an essay written by the editor concerning "historically informed performance," and wrote him a long letter. He wrote back saying, "Too bad you can't write for us." I wrote back asking why I couldn't. A few weeks later a box of flute CDs and a style sheet arrived by mail. After a few months I asked if I could (please) have recordings other than flute recordings to review, and I became one of the chamber music reviewers.

I used to play the recordings I received to review on the air, where I could listen using high-quality speakers. It was actually an ideal situation because our (very small and underfunded) radio station could finally play brand new recordings of often unusual repertoire, providing an alternative to the repertoire of classical “hits” played by the other classical stations (well, we were classical in the morning) in our listening area. I donated some of the review copies to the station's library, and I put them into regular rotation, which made our library current and good (my goal for the radio station library was to have only excellent recordings to play). The writing, which took far more time than the listening, was something that I generally did at home, while raising two children and trying to learn to play a new instrument.

In 2000, when I left the radio station and went to graduate school (with a "grading" assistantship), things became far more difficult. I listened using headphones and a portable CD player, and I had to sandwich my review writing between marathon exam grading sessions and general graduate school work, in addition to composing and practicing. I suppose it was good practice for my days teaching music appreciation (which I was doing concurrently with private teaching and freelance orchestral playing, not to mention practicing and composing).

There were a few years when I also worked as the advertising manager for the magazine, a job that I wasn't at all cut out for, and it was then that I realized how much I disliked the whole business aspect of recordings. I was a little embarrassed when things I wrote in the ARG as "FINE" were quoted on people's websites and on CD covers. People also treated me differently when I was a reviewer. Famous people called me. Really.

I also had a CD storage problem, and an American Record Guide issue storage problem (we reviewers were supposed to make reference to old reviews). I dispensed with the plastic CD cases, and kept the CDs in large loose-leaf binders. Those still took up a great deal of shelf space. Since I rarely listened to those CDs for pleasure, they mostly sat there.

I stopped writing for the ARG a few years ago. I moved the books of CDs to the garage, where they sit undisturbed. I cut out the pages in the ARG issues that had my reviews, and put those pages in a zipped binder where they sit in the garage, next to the CD binders. I might even throw them away one of these days.

I mostly listen to live music now, and have made a point of going to more concerts. I do sometimes listen to music on the radio when I am in the car, and I do listen on YouTube now and again. Now that I don't have to make judgements about what I hear, I have a far greater appreciation for music than ever before.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Sleep Thou

This "fruit" (or flower) of the summer of 2018 sat around in my "abandoned music" file for about four years. I wrote in response to a call for scores setting the lullaby that Tatania sings to Bottom in Act IV, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream for flute and soprano without accompaniment:
Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms.
Fairies, begone, and be all ways away.

[fairies exit]

So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle
Gently entwist; the female ivy so
Enrings the barky fingers of the elm.
O, how I love thee! how I dote on thee!

[they sleep]
It was not accepted by the performers, so I put it in a file and forgot about it.

My life this summer has been enhanced by vines (cucumber, zucchini, and tomato, mostly), and I found myself singing this song while working in the garden. I dusted it off and made a lot of improvements, and now I'm sharing it here.



You can listen to a computer-generated recording here, and you can find a PDF on this page of the IMSLP.

The songs mentions woodbine, which is another name for the the European kind of honeysuckle (Lonicera peliclymenum), and not the invasive Asian kind that is my nemesis.

And, just to be complete, here's a nice botanical drawing of some Ivy (I'm assuming the female parts are the little curly tendrils):

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Red Hot Dots for Five Violas or Four Violas and Bass

I'm sharing a brand-new polka written for viola ensemble or viola ensemble with double bass.



You can listen to the version for five violas here, and the version for four violas and bass here.

The music is available on this page of the IMSLP.

Composer Diversity Database

Here's an interesting new database tool to help find composers who are not necessarily male, not necessarily female, not necessarily white, not necessarily American, and not necessarily dead.

The project, created by Rob Deemer, is in its beginning stages, so I am putting the link here for future reference.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Marshall Fine's "Missouriana"

In honor and in memory of my brother, Marshall Fine, I'm posting his Missouriana, a delightful short piece for orchestra that he wrote in 1985. Here is what he wrote about piece:
Missouriana, op. 44, is based on Missouri folk themes and fiddle tunes, developed in my style without ever sacrificing the hoedown premise--not even in the fully worked-out fugue in the middle. I wrote it in 1985 for Hugo Vianello, who premiered it the next year, repeated it in the fateful year of 1989, and revived it again in 1994. Yet it is Alan Balter’s interpretation, done in 1989 with the MSO, that I find the best. It is also the first orchestral work that I committed to Sibelius notation; and Carl Fischer, who had published the manuscript original on a rental basis, was overjoyed when I submitted the printed score and parts to them in the spring of 2013.
Here is a link to a recording that could be from either the 1989 Memphis Symphony concert with Alan Balter conducting or the 1994 performance.

The score is available to look at at the Theodore Presser website. I have written to the company to ask them to make it available to be purchased or rented (they don't seem to have a way to do that through the page they have for the piece). I hope that they make the necessary adjustments so that the piece can have more performances.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

La roue

Michael and I spent a few evenings watching the 2008 reconstruction of Abel Gance's La roue (1923) with music by Robert Israel, and it was a remarkable experience. The idea of watching a four-hour-long silent movie put us off for several weeks, but once we started watching I knew those four hours would pass quickly. The film is so visually compelling, has such superb acting, and has such engaging music, some of the time did pass quickly, and some of the time didn't. In this "modern day" Sisyphus story the weight of the moment or the full emotional exploration of a situation at hand is part of the quality of the experience.

The film was first shown with Arthur Honegger supplying the music (I happily noticed the influence of Honegger's "Pacific 231,").



Robert Israel (who shares my birthday, though he is four years my junior), did a fantastic job writing music for the film. He incorporates all kinds of techniques that were around during the time of the film like Poulenc-ish harmonies, and nods to Honegger and his colleagues in "Les Six." There are also tone rows here and there, and a striking fugue during a train-platform fight. One of the characters is a violin maker, so there is a lovely violin-rich musical subtext which provides a late-19th-century contrast to the "modern" steam engine music that surrounds it. We do get some film-music memes, like nods to Hermann's "Vertigo" here and there. Israel also incorporates a familiar pavane, a verse of Josquin's "El Grillo," a momentary homage to Sarasate, and a modified 1812 Overture.

A thrilling moment for me came during the first hour of the film. The violin maker imagines what it would have been like to live as a violin maker in days of yore (with costumes that looked like they could be used in a Shakespeare play), and on his bench he happened to have a seven-string viola d'amore, which he picked up and played. The instrument looked very similar to my viola d'amore!

The viola d'amore was making the first of its "comebacks" during the early part of the 20th century, and was considered to be an ancient instrument. We now know, of course, that the seven-string instrument wasn't around during Shakespeare's time, but Gance probably loved the way the instrument looked and the name it had (another set of obsessions that the characters of the film "enjoy"), so he used it in the scene.

[Just as an aside, the viola d'amore has a flat back like a viol, and it can fit really well in a Renaissance-era consort.]

You can see the unrestored silent film (without music) on YouTube:





And you can watched a few clips there of the restored film with the Robert Israel score:

Here's one:






Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Applying Julie Landsman's rhythmic subdivision to practicing Kreutzer Etude #1

Though they share a common register, viola playing and horn playing are different animals. But all musicians share some similar concerns, and Landsman's Caruso method of subdivision is extremely helpful for understanding the most difficult part of playing any instrument: knowing exactly when.

I found it interesting to watch her subdivide while her student was playing long notes. She was not subdividing in constant sixteenth notes,



but instead she was mixing subdivisions within the measure like this:



or this.



I put that kind of subdivision (why had I never thought of consciously mixing subdivisions within the measure before?) into great use with the Kreutzer Etude #1 today (shown here in its violin form):



Using the mixed sixteenth note subdivisions during the long notes helps with bow distribution, and dividing the beat before the shift, and then during the last beat of the measure into secure sixteenth notes gives the shifted-to note a definite place to be in time, which helps it secure a place to be on the fingerboard.

It also reduces fatigue, both physical and mental.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Julie Landsman Teaches the Carmine Caruso Method of Subdivision

I am deeply impressed with the way that Julie Landsman teaches, thinks, and expresses herself. I believe that everything she has to say can translate to the viola, in some way (and to any other instrument), so I'm sharing this first video here:



Here's a link to a page that has the whole series of videos.

And here she is in 1985 playing Schumann with Claude Frank:



(We violists play this piece too, so there is much to learn.)

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Mary Jane Waltz



A favorite candy from my Boston-based childhood deserves a sweet piece of music to honor it.

The Mary Jane, a peanut-butter and molasses taffy, was invented by the Boston-based candy maker Charles N. Miller in 1914. In 1989 the Miller candy company was sold to Stark Candy, and the recipe and rights for the Mary Jane were sold to the NECCO candy company. NECCO made the candy in Revere, Massachusetts until the factory closed abruptly in July of 2018. This "Boston" waltz (with its slight hesitations) seems appropriate to celebrate the Boston-based treat.

You can listen to this piece here, and the score and parts are available on this page of the IMSLP.

You can learn more about the interesting history of the Mary Jane here.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Mozart in the Jungle Television Series

I spent two 3 1/2 hour airplane trips (Dallas to Los Angeles) watching the first season (2015) of the Mozart in the Jungle television series, which is only available to watch on an airplane or through Amazon Prime. The airplane trip is certainly the more expensive route to watch the series. I would not join Amazon Prime in order to watch any more of this show, but I might "hate watch" future seasons on future flights to California.

Implausibility in this series reigns supreme, as does the spoiler content of this post.

A 26-year-old oboist named Hailey lives in a funky apartment in New York that has a street-level fire escape. She has a wise-ass roommate who is not a musician, but is interested in music and musicians. The mystery oboe player who plays Hailey's oboe "voice" is excellent (none of the musicians who do the actual playing are credited, though the list of people involved in the show in the IMDB is about the longest list I have ever seen). We find that out that Hailey is a great oboe player when her roommate and some friends play a (invented-for-the-series) drinking game where you spin a dial to pick a musical era, drink the requisite number of shots of booze for that era, and then play an orchestral excerpt of your choosing. If you make a mistake you lose.

At the time of the drinking game, Hailey had just returned from a gig where she met the assistant principal cellist of the "New York Symphony." A few days later (I guess--time in this series is very strange), the cellist tells Hailey about an open audition for an oboist in the orchestra that is happening right away. There is a cute scene where Hailey scrapes reeds while she is traveling to the orchestra hall in a sort of rickshaw. She makes it to the hall after the auditions are over. The audience knows that the new conductor of the orchestra hasn't picked anyone (now there's some realism). Hailey decides to sit in the chair behind the screen and play her audition in the empty hall. But the conductor (somehow) hears her, and he decides that he wants her to play the fifth oboe part in the Mahler 8th Symphony (which does indeed call for four oboes and English Horn). Hailey makes it though some of a rehearsal (where, for some reason, she's playing second oboe) and then drops her instrument on the floor and swears loudly. She immediately loses her chance to play with the orchestra, but the conductor eventually hires her as his assistant (not as an assistant conductor, but as an assistant who makes him tea and drives him places).

Lola Kirke, the lovely actress who plays Hailey, looks plausible from the chest up when she plays the oboe, but her fingers don't behave like the fingers of an oboist. She is, however, more convincing than the man who plays the concertmaster, the woman who plays the assistant principal cellist, and the backwards (she holds the fiddle in her right hand and the bow in the left) solo violinist who is the wife of the conductor. They are unwatchable. The actor who plays Rodgrigo (the conductor) seems to have put some time into learning how to hold the violin and the bow, and he seems to have the physical sense of what it is like to stand up in front of an orchestra. The part written for him is demanding: he needs to be impulsive, immature, manipulative, unorthodox, self-absorbed, possessed, haunted, annoying, and endearing.

Bernadette Peters is actually quite good as the president of the orchestra (though CEO is the usual term, if there is one). She seems to have modeled her character on Deborah Borda, and added a host of enticing distortions.

Hailey's roommate (who might have escaped from an episode of "Girls") is, unbeknownst to Hailey, a member of the New York upper crust. Hailey only finds out when she spies her roommate at a party for the "donor class" that she attended because she drove the conductor of the orchestra there.

Hailey's boyfriend, a dancer from Juilliard who happens upon the drinking and excerpt party I mentioned above, is as uninteresting as he is implausible. Like everyone else in the series, he is attractive. Everyone I noticed in the series is straight, aside from the inter-racial gay couple in the orchestra who share a quick kiss before a concert.

The assistant principal cellist, who seems to have emerged from the television series "Sex and the City," develops an addiction to pain killers, which she gets from the orchestra's drug-dealing timpanist. She takes these drugs because she has tendonitis. I have had tendonitis, and I have known countless people with tendonitis. Most of us treat it with Aleve or Ibuprophen, wraps, ice packs, and the occasional cortisone shot. Most musicians would see a doctor.

Perhaps the most ludicrous quarter of an hour comes in an episode called "The Rehearsal." It begins with a note left at the hall stating that the rehearsal location has been changed to a vacant lot. Rodrigo (the conductor) used some wire cutters to cut a hole in a chain-link fence in front of the lot, and beckons the orchestra members to climb in through the opening. How the basses and timpani made it in is anyone's guess. Folding chairs magically appear, but not music stands. No worries: Rodrigo tells them that they will be playing Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, so they "play" without music. Hailey stands next to the timpani player and holds some cymbals. She looks very happy.

After playing the 1812 Overture the assembled audience (with school-age children in it--must have been a weekend) enjoy some pizza that Rodrigo has had delivered. Some of the musicians jam jazzily, and everyone enjoys the party. Eventually a few police officers show up and take everyone to jail. The president of the orchestra bails everyone out, and she gives the police chief season tickets for the upcoming season.

What started as a book by Blair Tindall that exposed some of the underbelly of the classical music scene in New York during the 70s and 80s has become a fantasy television series that has nothing to do with the reality of the classical music scene anywhere, at any time. It's kind of like looking at a paint-on-velvet rendering of something by Hieronymus Bosch.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bach Prelude Project in One Volume



I have finally organized all of my Bach Cello Suite transcriptions into a complete set which can be downloaded through this link (which will take you directly to a dropbox folder that contains the score and individual combined parts).

And now I can move on . . .

Thursday, July 12, 2018

2018 Summer Strings Concert



This year's program has music by Bach, Beethoven, Elgar, Bernstein, Gershwin, and Thomas "Fats" Waller, along with music from films and a handful of popular songs (all lovingly arranged by yours truly).