Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our Summer on Route 66

Michael and I devoted most of our television-viewing hours of late April, May, and June to Route 66, a television program that aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964. We watched the whole run of the show in order, taking in an average of three shows per day. We finished the run the day before yesterday, but we're watching the last two episodes again partially because we are having a hard time weaning ourselves from the daily dose of excellent acting, writing, and cinematography (or you might call it televitography) we have been able to enjoy. Not all the shows were great, but many of them were great.

Everything was shot on location, and the people who were photographed in the crowd scenes were often people who happened to be there watching the filming. "There" is everywhere in the continental United States, though the cast and crew tended to spend their winters in warmer places like Florida, Arizona, Southern California, and the Southern coastal part of Texas.  Tod and Buz, and later Linc, the show's main characters, are fearless and athletic 20-something men who drive around the country in a Corvette.  They drive their way into all sorts of scenarios, and often decide where to go based on the direction the wind is blowing.  There's also a lot of coin flipping for important decisions like which one of them will get the first chance with "the girl."  More often than not there is at least one "girl," and she usually wears a lot of eyeliner and false eyelashes.  Her hair never gets blown out of place, and her clothes always look fantastic.

[You can read Michael's Route 66 posts here]

One show that I loved took place in Colorado. Tod was working as a stagehand for a production of Don Giovanni. A person Buz knew in Vietnam dealt with his difficulties re-entering society by seducing women, and was known around town by all as a "Don Juan." Parallels abound. Stirling Silliphant, the show's main writer, had a great love of the kind of identity switching (by way of costuming) that goes on in Mozart operas (like Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni), all forms of parent-child relationships and epiphanies of all kinds. There are nods to poetry and literature, and forays into the supernatural (one episode with a character who might have been a real-life mermaid, and one episode presents a woman who might actually be a psychic). The way the show portrays women reminds me that we may actually have inched forward in a positive way as a society during the past 50 years.

[The whole series is available on a commercial YouTube site, but you can watch a few episodes here on this normal--i.e. free--YouTube site.]

Today Michael and I headed up to Champaign, Illinois (in our Toyota) to see a movie, and also shop for a mother-of-the-bride dress for me (and I found one). On the way we noticed a Corvette (the car that Tod, Buz, and Linc drive in every episode of the series) ahead of us. Then we noticed another, and found it amusing that there were two Corvettes on our Illinois back road (what are the odds?). Then we began to see more and more of them, and they were in all vintages and all colors (but none of the ones we saw had a luggage rack like the car from Route 66).

When we finally arrived at our parking garage it became clear that this wasn't a coincidence. There was a mass Corvette event taking place in our very midst. It might even be, if all goes well for the people organizing the event, the largest gathering of Corvettes ever.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Paula Deen, the Opera

Just wait. I betcha someone has already started writing it. After my lousy luck with getting operas produced (or even staged), I'm not up to the task. But I certainly know that it won't be over until the fat lady sings. Do you think that Paula Deen's recent healthy way of eating has caused all this ridiculous negative media attention? I feel for Paula, actually. She has become a victim of the system that created her. Isn't that kind of a prerequisite for being an opera heroine?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Women's Prison Orchestra

You would think that after the widespread airing of this clip about Alaska's Hiland Mountain Correctional Center this past December that a google search for "Women's Prison Orchestra" would come up with many programs like it elsewhere in America.

I found a photograph of a prison orchestra in Iowa, but it was from nearly 100 years ago (1914). All mention of current orchestras in prisons on the internet are from prisons outside of America (China, the Philippines, and Venezuela).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Extra-consciousness invites us to play

I found an interesting post that Michael Colgrass wrote back in October of 2012:
I know that when I feel stuck while writing a work and decide to take a break from it, I can resort to something inside myself to get things rolling again when the time is right. It’s as if I hand over the work to my subconscious. It has often done a much better job than my conscious mind, even though I think that can be pretty creative too by churning out all the possible solutions for a trouble spot. Call it the raw material for the piece. Then I walk away from it and another part of me seems to take over and do the work. I certainly can’t describe the process, but I know it is not intellectual or cerebral. It seems as though some kind of extra-consciousness appears from an almost secret place and invites me to play.

Perhaps all creativity has a psychic component — in art, science and all our daily creative pursuits. Many people resist or ridicule the existence of psychic reality, though there is much evidence that it exists — sometimes under different names, such as intuition, coincidence or luck.
I am a person of the here and now. I don't believe in ghosts, and I don't believe in life after death (including reincarnation). I do, however, believe strongly that the connections that we make with one another are much more complicated than we are capable of understanding them to be. Music is also far more complicated than we are capable of understanding it to be, and I inherently distrust anyone who claims to understand it fully (or even understand what it is). We all draw upon musical experiences that we can't possibly consider in real time, because pieces of music happen in time. If you stop the music, you stop the experience.

Sure. You can study a passage, or repeat it again and again. You can try to figure out how it works, and how you can use what you learn in the music you write. There are rules of harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration that can make static music sound better than it would without observing those "rules," but for the "stuff" of music and the magic that can happen, there are no rules.

An idea comes as a shape, a texture, a feeling, a series of relationships, and then those of us who like to write music spend inordinate amounts of time getting the notes and rhythms to project the shapes, textures, and feelings that might have been in that original idea. When everything is "right," the piece is finished, and that particular game with that extra-consciousness (whatever it may be) comes to an end.

Then everything is quiet and kind of dull, until E.C. knocks on the door, and it's time to play another game.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

No Words are Necessary

[Click for a larger view.]

This comes from Steven Staryk's blog.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lonesome Times

(That's the title of the song.)

Silly thought for the day

Musicians have a great many different words for slow.

(Including ASLAP)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Taruskin on the Classical Music Audience

In a New York Times article from September 10, 1995, Richard Taruskin discusses the "Revolution of 1989," when the Berlin Wall came down and Leonard Bernstein conducted that Beethoven's Ninth with "Freiheit" replacing "Freude" in the text of the last movement.
What did it mean, playing Beethoven at that time and in that place? As if the East Germans did not also have their Beethovenfests. As if the high culture and all its icons had not been exploited by every dictatorship (and every commercial interest), used as a bludgeon to beat down spontaneous (popular, counter-) culture and sell every consumer product.

The true musical emblems of that glorious moment were the guitar-strumming kids in jeans atop the wall playing a music that would have landed them in jail the day before. They were the ones who symbolized Freiheit. What did Beethoven symbolize? Just packaged greatness. I'm afraid, and all that that implies of smugness and dullness and ritualism. Just what the revolutions of '89 were revolting against.

And that is why classical music is failing, and in particular why intellectuals, as a class, and even the educated public, have been deserting it. The defection began in the sixties, when all at once it was popular music that engaged passionately--adequately or not, but often seriously and even challengingly--with scary, risky matters of public concern, while classical music engaged only frivolously (remember radical chic?) or escaped into technocratic utopias. By now, the people who used to form the audience for "serious" music are very many of them listening to something else.
Quoted without permission from The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays Published in 2009 by the University of California Press. It's a fascinating collection of essays from throughout Richard Taruskin's career, and many of the reprinted essays have fresh commentary (2008) for this publication.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Trusting Computers with Our Music

David Wolfson's thoughtful post about posterity and Kyle Gann's post about the fickle nature of computer operating systems both gave me a jolt today. I rely exclusively on the computer as a tool for notating and distributing the music I write.

Perhaps I have come to trust that a PDF file is pretty much the same as a hard copy because Finale's command to print gives me the option to "print" something as a PDF. Since I back up my PDF files on a cloud, somewhere, I haven't felt the need to print up paper copies of music for years, but someday PDF files might be obsolete. Who can honestly say that the format will be around forever? Who can honestly say it will be around in 30 years? 20 years? 10 years?

Who can say that a superior format won't emerge, and the "gatekeepers" will set up shop and translate PDF files into the new format for a price?

Every digital format has changed since the beginning of computing. How many computers today can read IBM cards? Displaywriter documents? Floppy discs? Zip discs?

[My old floppy discs and Zip discs sit in a drawer with old pairs of glasses.]

I wonder how many reams of paper and how much time and toner it would take to print physical copies of the music I have written over the last 15 years. I wonder how much physical space it would take up. I wonder if I should plan to start soon.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sibling Stamitz

My brother came to visit yesterday (for the first time in years and years), and we played a bit of Stamitz.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy Birthday IS in the Public Domain

Or at least it will be if all goes as it should. You can read all about it (and the the lawsuit against Warner Chappell) here.

Here are some highlights:
If and to the extent that defendant Warner/Chappell relies upon the 1893, 1896, 1899, or 1907 copyrights for the melody of Good Morning to All, those copyrights expired or were forfeited as alleged herein.

As alleged above, the 1893 and 1896 copyrights to the original and revised versions of Song Stories for the Kindergarten, which contained the song Good Morning to All were not renewed by Summy and accordingly expired in 1921 and 1924, respectively.

As alleged above, the 1899 copyright to Song Stories for the Sunday School, which contained Good Morning to All, and the 1907 copyright to Good Morning to All were not renewed by Summy Co. before its expiration in 1920 and accordingly expired in 1927 and 1935, respectively.

The 1893, 1896, 1899, and 1907 copyrights to Good Morning to All were forfeited by the republication of Good Morning to All in 1921 without proper notice of its original 1893 copyright.

The copyright to Good Morning to All expired in 1921 because the 1893 copyright to Song Stories for the Kindergarten was not properly renewed.

The piano arrangements for Happy Birthday to You published by Summy Co. 111 in 1935 (Reg. Nos. E51988 and E51990) were not eligible for federal copyright protection because those works did not contain original works of authorship, except to the extent of the piano arrangements themselves.

The 1934 and 1935 copyrights pertained only to the piano arrangements, not to the melody or lyrics of the song Happy Birthday to You.

The registration certificates for The Elementary Worker and His Work in 1912, Harvest in 1924, and Children's Praise and Worship in 1928, which did not attribute authorship of the lyrics to Happy Birthday to You to anyone, are prima facie evidence that the lyrics were not authored by the Hill Sisters.

In 1934 the people who made "Pardon My Pups" had to write an alternative version (you'll hear it at 1:33) of "Happy Birthday" in order avoid paying royalties:

and Fred Rogers took the opportunity to write a truly lovely birthday song:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tonschönheit ist Nebensache

In an essay about Bach Cello Suites in Richard Tarushkin's The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, he refers to the phrase "Tonschönheit ist Nebensache" (beauty of sound is secondary) as Paul Hindemith's motto. He does mention (In an essay about Hindemith) that the phrase comes from Hindemith's tempo marking in the fourth movement of his Opus 25, no. 1 Sonata, "Rasendes Zeitmass. Wild. Tonschönheit ist Nebensache," but I believe that Mr. Taruskin jumps to a general conclusion about Hindemith's feelings about expression that may not be appropriate.

As you can hear from the performance below, the movement can be played with wild abandon, scratching the instrument like crazy:

But I believe Hindemith's suggestion is specific to the one minute and 51 seconds it takes to play the movement, and not to his music in general. It is a minor point, I know, but the word Nebensache also means a minor point. I believe that what Hindemith is telling the violist is to play with abandon and not to worry too much about making a beautiful sound.

I have heard it played beautifully, by the way.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Clara's Father and Clara's Sister

I stumbled across an amusing and interesting book in the IMSLP. Frederick Wieck was, of course, the father of Clara Schumann.

Much of the book is written as a series of socratic-style dialogues and little plays concerning teaching music to children. It is a very interesting glimpse into a world most of us know about from what people wrote about Wieck and not from the man himself. The book first came out in 1853, and this 1882 translation by Mary Pickering Nichols was the first (and probably the last) translation of it into English. I imagine that it might be a scan from the translator's own copy because there is one instance when the word "shall" is crossed out, and the word "will" is written in its place.

Somehow, through all my years of reading about Clara Wieck Schumann, I missed out on learning much about her younger half sister Marie Wieck who also composed (here's a sample from a Scherzo for piano). Much of what Frederick Wieck talks about as a teacher rings true a century and a half later.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Ageism in Composer Opportunities

In Bill Doerrfeld's NewMusicBox post from June 5, he mentions that:
There are various examples of 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations who accept tax-deductible donations and who discriminate based on age even when it is not within their organizational mission statement to do so. For example, one organization sponsoring a composer opportunity states their mission as follows: “Our mission is to enrich the cultural vitality of the region and to offer a unique experience to exceptionally talented musicians.” However, they limit composer submissions to those under the age of 35. Looking at their mission statement, one has to ponder whether or not it is possible for an older emerging composer to “enrich the vitality” of the community. This is but one example of a disconnect between an organization’s mission and their policies, and one which I believe hampers musical progress.
I agree.

Composers in their 50s were once thought of as being in the prime of life. There is a mistaken idea that people over 40 should step aside and let younger composers have the chance to have their music heard. Perhaps it's part of the mistaken idea that people who don't "make it" before the age of 40 will never "make it" (whatever "making it" is). A future dominated by an idea like that would be sad indeed.