Saturday, August 08, 2020

86 45 11 3 20

A tonal row for our times that can be played on any instrument. (B=0, C=1, C#=2, D=3, etc.)

The Largest Online Orchestra in the World plays Mozart's Magic Flute Overture

If you look closely, I'm in there playing the second violin part, wearing a pea-green shirt! I am so proud to be a part of this world music-making project!

Augustin Hadelich and James Ehnes Talk about Stuff

What a treat for me it was to listen and watch (though the auto-focus comically goes in and out, making things blurry at moments when I really wish I could see things) Augustin Hadelich and James Ehnes talk about making recordings at home, playing double harmonics, how the different sizes of their hands and arms influence the way they hold the violin, and so much more. It is amazing to see how like-minded my two favorite active living violinists are! Make sure to watch all the way to the end, where they both say really important stuff about music.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Truth be told

We all have an idea of what is true. And that is what we each believe. But I cannot “believe” fully in someone else’s truth. I can’t, and I won’t. 

If we go through life actively seeking what is true, day by day, in spite of the obstacles we encounter, we can live genuine lives that are filled with truth. If we spend time trying to deceive others—trying to get them, for whatever reason (control, power, monetary gain, fame, conquest), we are not living a life devoted to truth. We are living a life actively devoted to deception--to covering up truth. 

If we allow others (significant and otherwise) the freedom of following their idea of the truth, then we can make a society where freedom of belief plays an active role in how we collectively go about our business. When we have debates and discussions with others that involve things we (and they) believe to be true, then we have lively debates that enlighten all parties. 

When we try to sway and bully, then we cause discord. And discord festers. Truth needs to have its figurative teeth and hair brushed daily, while discord, left unattended grows and spreads like mildew, mold, or infection.

As a small child I vaguely remember wanting to know what was true. But a child's world is small, and choices are indeed limited. And I imagine that during my unchecked and confused childhood my relationship with the truth was unformed. I still remember some of the lies I told as a child, and I still remember the things I never told anyone (but should have).

As a young teenager I longed to find some kind of truth. I tried searching for it in other young teenagers, in the songs that were popular during the 1970s that I heard at other people's houses, in the history books written for children that were in the library, in fiction I read written by adults for children, in fiction written by adults for adults, and in adults I knew. I was not successful. 

Finally, at around thirteen, I found truth in Bach, Josquin, Mozart, Monteverdi, and Brahms. And then I learned to recognize truth in other composers, like in Haydn, Beethoven and Ives. I actually got pretty good at recognizing musical truth as a teenager, but I battled with my own sense of what was true (musically and otherwise) way into adulthood. 

The search for truth led me from the flute to the recorder, and it led me from the recorder to the baroque flute, and it led me to the violin, to the viola, and back to the violin. The search for truth helps me when I am writing music. Writing music is my ultimate truth-seeking activity, and it gives me so much honest pleasure when, after fighting with a series of pitches and rhythms, something comes out right and true. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Future's Future

I find this passage, which follows a paragraph about about the relationship between the media and corporations, from Toni Morrison's The Source of Self-regard serious food for thought:
What strings these social perversions together, for me, is profound error--not only the errors in questionable but unquestioned data, in distored "official" releases, in censorship and the manipulation of the press, but also and especially faoults deepy embedded in the imagination. A prime example is the inability or unwillingless to imagine future's future. The inability or unwillingness to contemplate a future that is neither afterlife nor the tenure of grandchildren. Time itself seems not to have a future that equals the length or breadth or sweep or even the fascination of its past. Infinity is now, apparently, the domain of the past. And the future becomes discoverable space, outer space, which is in fact the discovery of past time. Billions of years of it. Random outbreaks of armageddonism and persistent apocalyptic yearnings suggest that the future is already over.
In March (which feels like the distant past) Americans either had one view of the future or we (whoever we actually is) had many views of the future, depending on where we lived, what we did for a living, what our religious beliefs were, or how we voted. Our downstate Illinois area had only a few cases for quite a while, but our governor wisely chose to move all the schools in the state to on-line learning. 

A false sense of security in these less-densely-populated parts led to an serious increase in cases. And now kids in families who either don't have the option for on-line learning, or don't want to take the option, will be spending their days in school buildings either wearing their masks or not, and either maintaining social distance or not. Administrators and teachers will end up directing much of their energy to enforcing safety, and students will end up directing much of their energy in ways that have little to do with doing their schoolwork. 

For grown-ups with advanced degrees, a trip to the supermarket is intellectually exhausting. I can't imagine what it will be like when a space the size of a grocery store is filled with kids who need to stay six feet apart.

I'm trying to imagine a future.

[from a drawing by Marc Foden] 

In the musical internets, which ends up being the place where I spend most of my "social" time, the international and collective we are starting to look at the distant and not-so-distant musical past differently. Handel, for example, owned shares in a corporation that profited from the slave trade. This piece by David Hunter in Musicology Now has information that would be most interesting to anyone reading this post. So much of the European Baroque music that we love was steeped in a culture (read: financed by people) of buying and selling human beings for the profit of their shareholders and their customers in the Americas.

While thinking about the unsavory state of musical patronage during Handel's time (and before), I can't help but reflect on the fact that I have routinely played concerts for organizations that are supported by entities that engage in business practices that I consider unsavory. I have also often played for weddings for families that may have earned the money they have paid me with in ways I would consider unsavory, and I have taught children who come from families that support politicians I seriously dislike. 

Musicians and performing organizations are using this dark time without live music to look at the business of what we call "classical" music with new eyes and listen with new ears. Some are hitching hopes to a handful of composers of color who have written music of serious quality, and are trying to imagine a musical world, a musical future, where people going to concerts in concert halls and other performance venues will be able to hear music by "rediscovered" and previously neglected (rejected) composers will have their works played by orchestras and chamber music ensembles (including the major ones) everywhere.  

Will audiences in the future respond to unfamiliar music the way they have done in the past--not showing up if they have never heard of the composer, or if they doubt the quality of the music that they will hear if the composer they never heard of was female rather than male? Will a "return to normal" involve the pipe dreams of a more equitable musical world collapsing under the weight of the traditional concert repertoire that everyone missed hearing in concert halls during the pandemic?  

Or will it not matter to most people. 

In a post recession economy (assuming that we have one in America) I wonder how long it will take for (not wealthy) people to start spending their money in order to go to concerts given by organizations that are not "A-list" organizations. I imagine that much of the free online musical content that musicians have shared during the time of Covid-19 will still be available when concert-going becomes possible again.  

I also wonder how much of the audience for "classical" music will opt to stay in, listen to CDs, and watch YouTube videos and DVDs. And I wonder if the idea of a "classical" repertoire will contract after the attempt at expansion that musicians have attempeted during this time.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

The Golf Links

I was flipping through a poetry anthology this evening, and came upon this poem by Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn (1876-1959) that I thought I would share.

The Golf Links

The golf links lie so near the mill
       That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
      And see the men at play

Remembering Ruskay's in "I Love the Upper West Side"

I hope that this article, that links to my 2010 post about Ruskay's sparks a few memories of New York in the 1970s!

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Rainy Day Peach Muffins!

I haven't posted a recipe for a long time, but the peach muffins that I made from what we happened to have in the house today are so great that I just had to share the recipe.

Yield: twelve amazing muffins

Preheat oven to 375 F, line a muffin tin with muffin cups.


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend together

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup cane sugar


1 egg
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 cups smashed up and thawed peaches that had been frozen with their skins on

Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Spoon into the muffin tin, and bake for 25 minutes. Take the muffins out of the tin, and let them cool a bit before eating.

(I could have used a little less butter, I guess. But then they probaby wouldn't be quite as delicious.)

Michael hasn't tried one yet. But I know he will want to link to this post. Welcome Orange Crate Art readers (and future muffin eaters).

Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars

Augustin Hadelich put up this beautiful video of his performance of Jascha Heifetz's transcription of Manuel Ponce's Estrellita yesterday:

In the commentary on his Facebook page he mentioned the huge number of double sharps (34) that are in the piano part of this transcription. My immediate thought was that it could have been a visual pun on the part of Heifetz.

The song in its original key of F major works perfectly well on the violin.

When you look at the transcription, the double sharps (circled in red) appear like little stars, the literal meaning of "Estrellita."

I like to think that Heifetz was waiting for someone to notice. And there's something fitting about Augustin Hadelich being the person to publically raise the question of why Heifetz would choose a key with all those double sharps for his inventive and chromatic setting.

My next question: Who is the T.O.F. that Heifetz dedicated the transcription to?

Monday, July 27, 2020

Ladder of Escape for Four Bassoons

Creative work usually works as a ladder of escape for me. Writing this piece for four bassoons this past week really helped get me out of a lousy headspace. I had great fun yesterday making the cover out of bassoon parts, which was a project in itself:

Today I made a allegorical video collage to go with the music:

You can find the score and parts on this page of the IMSLP.

Friday, July 24, 2020

New audiences (post Covid) for classical music

I just bought a ticket to hear Augustin Hadelich play a recital tomorrow night at Tanglewood. It cost $12.00, and since I'm going to watch it with Michael, that's $6.00 per person.

I haven't been to a concert at Tanglewood in nearly twenty years. It has been so long, in fact, that the hall that this concert is being broadcast from wasn't even built. After my father retired from the Boston Symphony, and no longer spent his summers at Tanglewood, our trips to Tanglewood ended.

This season nobody except the performers, the concert arrangers, and the people doing the filming will be at this concert. The audience of people from all over the world will be, like me and Michael, sitting in our homes. We can read the concert program by way of a PDF. We can also watch it again during the coming week.

People can make their own picnics and pre-concert dinners. Michael and I will be having leftover Thai food.

Musicians and concert organizations worry about whether the audiences for our concerts will return after the pandemic is over. With the likelihood of a serious economic collapse in our future (at least in America), we wonder if people will have money and time to actually go to concerts. We wonder, with lower-capacity seating in concert halls, if we will be able to bring in enough revenue from ticket sales to pay decent salaries for people who are performing, and pay decent salaries for the people in the concert-giving organizations to do the technical work, to run the organization, and to do the necessary publicity.

If there is an online concert option bundled into subscriptions, even for smaller and regional orchestras and chamber ensembles, musicians everywhere might be able to reach wider audiences--making it possible for people who don't live in a city where a particular performance is taking place to hear and see it live. If it is a premiere, all the better. And if this online option is successful, orchestras and chamber music ensembles might be able to do programming that is innovative, with music by lesser-known composers that should be programmed, rehearsed, and performed.

If there is enough revenue from online ticket sales and subscriptions, in-person ticket prices could be lowered enough to give people who normally can't afford to go to concerts the chance to go.

Who knows? There might even be a place for reviewers in this new musical world.

Early American Music from the Ephrata Cloister!

This is one of the most exciting musicological discoveries ever. And I love the fact that it was prompted by the mention of Georg Conrad Beissel, the founder of the Ephrata Cloister, in Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus. The Hymnal that holds this forgotten American music (written by three women: Sister Föben, Sister Ketura and Sister Hanna) has been hidden in plain sight.

You can read Avery Keatley's NPR article about the music, the community, and the upcoming recording here, and you can read more about the Ephrata Cloister here.

Stephanie Chase interviews Robin Fay Massey in Stay Thirsty

I love this interview that the violinist Stephanie Chase did with my friend Robin Fay Massey. Robin is a exceptional violist, a dedicated emergency room nurse, and an exemplary human being.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

King's Singers New Music Prize for Composers

I normally don't post announcements about music competitions here, but this one looks interesting. I haven't written choral music (or been a member of a chorus) for years, so this is not something I am comfortable entering, but I appreciate the inclusive nature of the competition and the support for composers that the King's Singers offer through the website.

This page has information about the texts to set and information about the people who will be judging the competition.

Price Adoration played by the Scottish Freelancers Ensemble

[. . . and they are playing my arrangement!]

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Who is the music for now?

In 1981 the bass player Tony Halligan used to say, "No matter how well you play, it's just someone's night out." It made a lot of sense then.

Now a "night out" to hear a concert is something that most of us (living in the Americas) can't do. We can pretend to have a night out, and listen to a recorded performance. We can do our best to make watching recorded performances seem like special events, or "nights out." We can participate in scheduled premieres and livestreams, and can feel like we are watching with other people, but this pandemic has taught me that Tony Halligan's words don't really apply anymore. And they may never apply again.

This morning, while I was having a great time practicing some Mazas "artist" etudes, I was thinking that Mazas wrote these for people like me. He wrote them for people who want to have harmonic and melodic experiences on the violin, while playing alone. He wrote them for people who would like to explore aspects of technique, and improve their playing. He also wrote them, clearly, to amuse himself, and to give himself and his students music to practice so that they could grow as musicians.

But music has other purposes too. I made a list this morning. The order is random, and I would hope that someone reading this list might want to add something to it in the comments.

Who (or what) is the music for now?

Music is being written and arranged to connect people over time and space.
Music is written to convey the meaning of words.
Music is written to convey other meanings of groups of words.
Music is written in order to allow us to marvel.
Music is written in order to allow us to escape.
Music is written in order to make us want to dance.
Music is written in order to make us want to sing.

Music helps us mark time, in small ways (like a few minutes or an hour, and in big ways, like an era).
Music helps us organize time.
Music helps inspire visual imagination.
Music helps us imagine a better world.
Music helps us to recognize and embrace the whole range of human emotions.
Music provides a safe way to express the darker sides of our natures.
Music provides a safe way for us to express the hopeful sides of our natures.
Music helps us learn languages that we wouldn't normally speak (or sing).
Music helps us learn about cultures we wouldn't normally encounter in our day-to-day lives.
Music helps us to recognize ways of organizing time we wouldn't normally think of.

Music helps us want to learn about the world.
Music teaches children to sing with their own voices.
Music teaches adults to sing with their own voices.
Music teaches us to listen to ourselves honestly.
Music teaches us to listen to other people honestly.
Music helps people gain confidence when communicating with others.
Music helps us each to seek out, hear, and accept our own authentic and unique voice.

Music helps people remember.
Music sometimes helps people forget.
Music keeps us company.
Music helps connect us to the larger world.
Music helps us realize that the world is vast, even though our circle of relationships may be small.
Music helps us form communities.
Music helps us feel that we belong.
Music helps us grow as instrumentalists, singers, composers, and human beings.
Music gives us pleasure.

Music certainly can entertain us, but I think it is far more important to remember that music offers a way we can interact with our fellow humans, whether we are playing with them or playing for them to listen, once it is safe to play together.

I like to live my musical life thinking that every day of isolation brings us closer to the time when we can take part in a better musical world. So that's why I keep practicing and writing music. I keep reminding myself that this is time I can use to grow as a musician, and the people I meet and play with after we don't have to worry about the virus (because we will all be vaccinated) will never again take the importance of their musical lives for granted.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Eleanor Aller (of the Hollywood Quartet) Interview from 1994

Eleanor Aller's son Frederick Zlotkin gave me permission to post this amazing radio interview with his mother. In addition to being the cellist of the Hollywood Quartet, Aller was the principal cellist of the Warner Brothers studio orchestra from 1939 through the 1970s, so any cello solo you hear in any Warner Brothers movie is being played by her. The IMDB listing for her is clearly only partial.

You can hear more from the Hollywood Quartet because some very kind people have shared their Hollywood Quartet recordings on YouTube.

I found a great portal to all things having to do with the Hollywood String Quartet, which is part of the Felix Slatkin website. Don't miss the link about the friendship between the Slatkins and Frank Sinatra.

You will surely want to explore these pages and links after hearing the interview.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

John Elwood Price (1935 - 1995)

I got a message the other day from a cellist who was working on a catalog of music written by African American composers that included some cello music by John Elwood Price. I never got the chance to meet John Price. He left my university town before I arrived, but I did hear a performance of an impressive piece for solo cello that he wrote for a friend who has since retired from the music department.

The person who contacted me was interested in the piece, and he was interested in getting in contact with the cellist who premiered it. I remember that my cellist friend had a T-shirt made from the first page of the score. It was quite a shirt. It was quite a score.

I tried to find some published music by John Price online, and was unsuccessful, but I was able to find entries for twelve pieces written by John Price in the Worldcat. Most of them them are manuscripts or holographs of manuscripts.

The manuscript of the unpublished "Damnation of Doctor Faustus" for tenor, choir, and orchestra is in the Indiana University library, and there are copies of the manuscript for his Scherzo I for clarinet and orchestra in the Unversity of Illinois Library and the Indiana University Library. The manuscript of the solo cello piece I heard, Impulse and Deviation, is in the U of I and I.U. libraries as well as in the New York Public Library.

There is a copy of Price's "Blues and Circle Dance" for solo viola in the Brigham Young collection of viola music, and there are manuscripts and holographs of pieces for solo double bass, a quartet for violin, viola, horn, and bassoon, and some piano pieces in the New York Public Library, U of I, and I.U.

I wonder where manuscripts of Price's other pieces could be?

I found a reference to the 1992 premiere of Price's Tuba Concerto, but could not find a way to locate the music.

Musicologists take note. It is not enough to document the existence of music by African American composers. It is your responsibility to evaluate it and get it into circulation so that it can be played and studied. That is the only way that music written by composers who are no longer alive can have a chance at becoming part of the fabric of musical life.

There are editions to be made, and there are performances to arrange. And I recommend the IMSLP as a way for getting the music into the hands of musicians quickly.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Summer Music

This is my first attempt at synchronizing computer-generated audio with human-generated audio and video! It is NOT easy, and the result of synchronizing everything with the tools I have at hand is imperfect.

My day has been dotted with attempts. I started with an iphone video (my ipad needed to charge so that I could use it for lessons), a Zoom audio recorder, bluetooth earbuds, and a computer-generated piano part that I made from a Finale file.

I placed the Zoom recorder right between my computer and my phone, and I pressed "play" on all the devices. I picked up my violin, and after four tries I had a decent recording (which felt pretty good). I loaded the audio files into Audacity, where I found all sorts of delays and lags ebbing and flowing freely through the three minutes of the piece. I guess there might have been some kind of bluetooth delay. I was disappointed.

After teaching a few lessons this afternoon, I tried again. This time I used my iPad and wired headphones, which I stuck into my iPhone. I listened to the piano part by way of Dropbox. Everything went swimmingly except for the fact that I played the piece through the three times with the Zoom recorder on "stand-by" rather than on "record." I gave myself one more attempt, which is what you see and hear here.

This time, after about half an hour of pushing and pulling in Audacity to get everything to start at the same time, I was able to line up the violin part with the piano part. I also gave the recording the ambience being made a larger room, which makes the piano sound more "human" to me.

I used iMovie, a program on my computer that I really don't know how to use properly, to line up the iPad recording with my mixed live/virtual recording. I spent a LONG time trying to figure out how to mute the audio on the iPad video file, and eventually succeeded.

You will, no doubt, notice that about halfway through the video my bow no longer matches the sound. I have no idea how to fix it. I'll leave that kind of thing to digital natives with more sophisticated equipment.

After all this, I still like the piece. And I'm happy to share it here.

The music is on this page of the IMSLP.

Price "Adoration" in Chicago at a Vigil for Elijah McClain

Monday, July 13, 2020

Complete Bach Cello Suite Allemande Project (BWV 1007 - 1012) for String Quartet

I finished my string quartet settings of the Bach Cello Suites today, and have made the scores and individual parts available here (to download for free).

And you can listen to the whole set here (it takes about twenty-eight minutes).

P.s. Two years ago I arranged the Preludes for string quartet. You can find links to the music here.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A few (more) words about Florence Price

When I first came across Florence Price's "Adoration" I was surprised that she wrote it in 1951. If you were a composer in 1951 it was not "cool" to write tonal music. Manipulating dodecophonic tone rows was considered by influential twentieth-century European composers as the "next phase" of music after Wagner and Brahms. Price, who studied in America with George Chadwick, was a traditionalist. She was still writing tonal music during a time when tonal composers were rarely taken seriously. Thank goodness we have moved beyond the influence of the mostly male and academic "gatekeepers" who dismissed what they had never heard as not being worth hearing.

I am so happy that Price's music is now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, being performed and recorded. I also hope that this recent Price "frenzy" (I am speaking in relative terms here) lasts into the next decades and through the twenty-first century because of the quality of her music, and the immaginative way she uses the traditional orchestra. I hope that a twentieth century composer she will be considered an important voice, and that people of the future (near and distant) will talk about her music and play it because of its quality, and not only because they want to avoid just playing music by composers who are male and/or white.

Wouldn't it be great if in the future people listening to the radio might hear a piece by Florence Price that they had never heard before and recognize her compositional style? There are ways of keeping Price's music in the public ear, but in ordet to do so broadcasters, teachers, and people who present concerts will have to take risks.

For starters you can find entries for Florence Price in the WorldCat, including a 1929 String Quartet, and an undated String Quartet No. 2, Five folksongs in counterpoint for string quartet, lots of songs (many set to poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Langston Hughes), a Quintet for Piano and Strings, two Fantisies for violin and piano, two violin concertos, three symphonies (some of her better-known works), a lot of piano music, a lot of organ music, some religious music, and some educational music.

Musicologists take note: there are pieces that are still in manuscript. University librarians take note: having Price's music in your library means that it will be available for present and future generations of students to study and perform.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Cultural Reset?

I just watched a video on twitter with a four-year-old girl complaining that the ice-cream truck is shut down, and MacDonalds is shut down, and the unfairness of it all. Her feelings are real. She speaks for so many of us. She is bored. Take-out food (her parents remind her that they can still get take-out from MacDonalds) doesn't cut it for this girl. She misses the play place and the music. Her parents remind her that they can't go to church either (not the first thing on this child's mind), and have to watch it on the TV. Yes, the child agrees, but she can't get the candy and prizes (and she elaborates) that they give out at church.

It reminds me of the parades that we used to attend in town. The whole reason that kids wanted to go was to pick up and collect (and later eat) the candy that the paraders threw onto the street. (It occurs to me that on non-parade days parents wouldn't usually let their kids pick up candy from the street.)

Social isolation from their friends is certainly something that kids have every reason to complain about. But I like to think that my inner four-year-old would be complaining about people not wearing masks and not following guidelines for social distancing BECAUSE that is what causes the virus to spread and for people to get sick. My inner four-year-old, who would be a little afraid about starting school when she turns five, would not want to enter a building where sickness could be lurking in the air because there are people in my town who believe that wearing masks would make them look like Democrats, and maybe even show that I didn't trust in the god that people say is supposed to protect us from things that might hurt us if I am "good."

It seems to me, from what I see and read on my computer, tablet, and phone from the house where I spent most of my time, that there are a lot people much older than four that seem to see the world the way this complaining four-year-old sees the world. "They" shut things down. "They" make rules about wearing masks. "They" tell me what to do.

These over-sized four-year-olds (and I include the current Republican president and his enablers) show exactly why America has lost credibility in the larger world. Responsible parents do their best to get their children to steer away from the cultural tendencies of selfishness and consumerism, but when other cultural factors that do not involve money or trade are not present in their lives, it is difficult to do.

When I was a teenager and a young adult, I used to think about the fact that all the things I cared about (music, art, books, nature) were kind of "extra" to the stuff that made the world work. It used to bother me a lot. I felt like an outsider. Now I embrace the things I learned, read, and experienced musically during my (relatively) isolated youth.

I like to believe that in this time of isolation, the greater "we" might be making ourselves ready for a cultural reset. Approaching the school year with the idea of universal remote learning, which would mean a lot of work for teachers (and, perhaps, more employment for people who might have retired from teaching, but could be called upon by school districts to help ease the load for teachers), would mean that we would reduce the spread of the virus significantly. State and local governments could make it possible for school districts to supply tablets to students who can't afford them, and make wifi centers (safe spaces with social distancing, responsible adults in charge, required masks, and filtered air systems) available for people who don't have internet connections. The federal government could help well, but I'm not going to hold my breath during this administration, and with this senate.

Students learning remotely could have required reading and writing (for various subjects) to do on their own time, and lessons for the day with various teachers could be archived so that students could go back to them. The teaching time of the school day could be reduced to three hours, and the student work time could take the rest of the day. It's not rocket science. And for two-parent households who can't work from home, government subsidies could be paid in order for one parent to remain at home with the kids. For single-parent homes there could be safe community spaces (large classrooms, libraries, gyms) where the students could take classes and do their work. Adults could be employed (and paid well) to "proctor" those spaces. That leaves teachers with the time and space to teach, grade homework, and prepare lessons. And those learning spaces could be spread across the community, so that one is a short walk for students.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Augustin Hadelich accompanies 37 musicians playing Florence Price's "Adoration."

I am usually pretty good expressing myself with words, but there is no possible way I could adequately describe the combination of feelings I have about this video.

Making the arrangement (for my own use, and then to share with friends) was a great pleasure. But hearing it played by fellow admirers of Augustin Hadelich (who is playing piano with each of them) remotely, from so many places (homes) around the world, is almost more than my heart can take. Hearing them all loving this beautiful Florence Price piece is what music is all about.

These are the violinists, violist, and guitarist who are playing in this video: Geneva Lewis, Patricia Cole, Akemi Takayama, Arun Asthagiri, Giuseppe Mengoli, Wei-Chung Chen, Karen Silva, Sharon Kwee, Nadia Ettinger, Joyce Kwak, Ana Sofia Rodrigues, Cheryl Gaudiano, Trent Ransom, Celina Bethoux, You-Jung Han, Malhar Kute, Mai Matsumoto, Savion Washington, Alberta Douglas, Jana Kaiser-Döge, Rachel Ginebra (guitar), Bruce Goldstein, Emily Corbett, Emily Kalish, Ion Scripcaru, Gonzalo Beltran, Amy Wang-Hiller, Phoebe Liu, Antoniu-Theodor Andreescu, Emilia Wagner, Natalie Wong, Sofia Nikas (viola), Raquel Pascual Peña, Selah Kwak, Mark Miller, Juan Luis Sosa and Bassam Nashawati.

Monday, July 06, 2020

WWBD: Allemande Project

It is very hot outside, and the air is full of so much pollen that it bothers me, a person who normally isn't bothered by seasonal allergies. And breathing the air is dangerous indoors in these parts because too many people refuse to wear masks when they go grocery shopping, which is the only indoor outside activity that either Michael and me do these days.

We always wear masks when we go, and we only go to the store every two or three weeks.

Watching the news is heartbreaking, and we distract ourselves with family banter, good books, and good movies. But most of our fun happens inside our individual heads (and on our blogs, of course).

The inside of my head, right now, is filled with adding voices to the Bach Cello Suites. A few years ago I did a Prelude Project where I adapted the Preludes of the Cello Suites for string quartet, and now I am deeply into adapting the Allemands (or Allemanden, or Allemandes--I'm still not sure of how I want to spell or pluralize the French word that describes a German dance).

I find myself making choices and following musical trains of thought that Bach might have made and followed, and when a measure or phrase ends up sounding a little (or a lot) like Bach, I get a real thrill. When a measure or phrase ends up sounding good, but does not necessarily sound like Bach, it's a cause of celebration as well.

There's a constant Bach party going on inside my head. I leave the room occasionally to do other things (like today I'm practicing the Beethoven "Spring" Sonata, and am contemplating making some chocolate chip cookies either tonight or tomorrow), but I always come back, and it is always lively and filled with possibilities.

Here's an audio draft of the C major Allemande. I spent much of yesterday and today working on the E-flat major Allemande. I will put the finished project into the IMSLP.

N.B. WWBD = What Would Bach Do

Saturday, July 04, 2020

8 minutes 46 seconds

Remo Giazotto, who is sometimes maligned by musicologists these days for claiming that his Adagio was a setting of fragments by Albinoni, could never have imagined the circumstances for which his piece could provide such a heart-wrenching sense of time, as well as a sense of this time.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Fugue, BWV 542 (originally written for organ)

Tedi Papavrami's playing of his brilliant transcription of this Bach fugue is really inspiring:

It helps us remember about the great things that are (and have been) in this world of ours.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson

I had never heard of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson before this afternoon, but this piece (and this performance) certainly makes me want to hear more. His chamber music is listed in his Wikipedia article, and appears to be available through the British publisher Lauren Keiser (who passed away last month at the age of 74). Keiser's catalog is being distributed by Hal Leonard, according to this press release, and they are keeping Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's music in print.

They might consider promoting it.

Musicologists and librarians take note! If we want to include more music written by African American composers in the concert repertoire, having it available to musicians is the first and most important step. Letting people know about it is the second step. Having it available in university libraries is the third step.

You can read Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's New York Times obituary here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The International Corona 19 Music Festival

Welcome to the International Corona 19 Music Festival!

It is hosted by this blog, Musical Assumptions, where all sorts of discourse, musical and sometimes otherwise, runs and flies freely. Participation is also free. And you can dip in whenever you want, pretty much undetected (though the watchful eye of my statcounter lets me know from where you came, and what pages you seemed interested in).

Here are the highlights of the festival, which began its Spring Season in March, without any preparation:

In March musicians in isolation played a lot of Bach. Solo Bach, mostly. The prelude of the G major Cello Suite was being performed by violists and cellists everywhere for a virtual audience of YouTube eyes and ears. If there were movements from other Suites being played online during March, I must have missed them. I also heard a lot of solo Bach being played on the violin. People did clever and beautiful things with solo Bach, like breaking up the Chaconne into four-measure units and creating a virtual (and otherwise impossible) performance of the whole piece. There was comaraderie in solo Bach.

And then there was "Amazing Grace," which had many really meaningful and heartfelt performances in March, and has had more painful and poignant moments in the Summer Season.

I spent my Spring Season playing Bach too, but it wasn't anything new for me. I had been doing the daily solo Bach circuit for decades. And after a few too many exclusive loops around the Cello Suites and Violin Sonatas and Partitas fishtank, I started to diversify with etudes (writing some of my own), Telemann Fantasies, and highlights of the violin repertoire. I also started practicing the first violin parts of the Beethoven Quartets, and, thanks to my vast collection of Beethoven Quartet CDs, the IMSLP (which offers full recordings for members), and YouTube, I can play along with scores of different excellent recordings.

Midway into the Spring Season, "Lift Every Voice" came out of the mouths and instruments of musicians in isolation, particularly Musicians of Color who started speaking (and playing) out about the omnipresence of racism in the classical musical community as well as in the larger community of humanity, particularly in the United States, and particularly at this time.

In the first few weeks of the Spring Season people began using video editing programs to make multi-track recordings of themselves. The technology had been around for a while, but suddenly musicians began really exploring it and exploiting its possibilities. They started subscribing to the Acapella app, which makes assembly easy, and started investing their savings in better audio equipment. And people (like me) who were not keen on teaching lessons online, started doing all their teaching through their screens.

By the end of May (which I will call the start of the Summer Season, because I can) people who follow trends in the things that classical music institutions are doing realized (finally) that Black composers were terribly underrepresented in what has become known as the musical canon. The strides musicologically-minded musicians made in the pre-Corona months of 2020 to include more music written by women in the programs that would be performed by major orchestras were strong enough to get people interested in composers like Florence Price. Actually, we don't know of any other composers like Florence Price, but I do imagine there were many. They just didn't get the (small amount of) attention that Price got during her lifetime.

I knew about Price because of a 1995 article by Rae Linda Brown about her in the Maud Powell Signature When I saw that her “Adoration” was in the IMSLP, I immediately set to work on a transcription for violin or viola and piano. It was a very easy transcription to make. Now, thanks to the helpful promotion of the transcription by Augustin Hadelich (the honorary guest artist of this festival), it looks like "Adoration" will play a part in future seasons of the Festival, and beyond.

There have been several panel discussions online (preserved as Zoom discussions) about the present and future state of music. There have also been several panel discussions inside my house, and inside my head. Today's discussion inside my head (while removing dust and grime from the downstairs floor) concerned an old topic: musical engagement.

Yesterday, after practicing some Beethoven and enjoying the way he wrote in a way that really stimulates creative expression, I had the sudden urge to play Schumann. The optimism and exuberance of Beethoven's Opus 18 didn't suit the moment, though. Only Schumann would do. And then I understood that when Schumann was writing his music to express musical thoughts and feelings that he had, he was doing it so that other people could have the same kind of vehicle for expression that he had. Once a piece is written, and all the notes, rests, dynamics, expression marks, and phrasings are in their places, it is a vehicle for expression that can be used by anyone to express what otherwise cannot or could not be expressed.

And in the case of Schumann, who could not perform his music because of the physical injuries that made it impossible to do so, it was even more important to write for other people to express themselves. And it is really all about the music, and not about Schumann. It's what Schumann gave to others that mattered during his lifetime and matters now.

When I think about what kind of a musician/person I want to be (or have found myself becoming), I like to imagine that my work is providing a way for people to express themselves. Once a piece of music is written it is no longer the responsibility or the property of the composer. It is the "charge" of the person or people playing it to fill it with their life, breath, and movement. And that way those feelings, that life, that breath, and that movement, can be shared with people who listen.

People who listen respond on many levels. People who play have the responsibility to make the listening experience a comfortable one for the listener by playing in tune and in rhythm, and feeling physically comfortable while playing. And they have the responsibility to make it a meaningful one by paying attention to the structures and balances in the music, the possible ways that words in a song can be understood, and the sense of connection and dedication they have to the musical line itself.

Now I'll go back to normal bloggery, but I will return with a report on future seasons of the International Corona 19 Music Festival.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Black Female Brass Players Panel

What an amazing disscussion has emerged from this odd time: the intersection of musicians being out of work (out of school), and a time when we are all gaining a heightened awareness of the presence of racism in "places" that we don't usually hear about, partially because people who have to deal with racism have, in the past, tended to be quiet about it. Particularly in music, where people usually just "shut up and play" when they feel uncomfortable with the way they are being treated.

You can watch their panel discussion here.

These young women, who (mostly) do not know one another and live in different places, share so many similar experiences in their musical worlds. The are being open and honest with one another in their discussions about race, mentors, and the challenges they face navigating in their musical worlds. It is an honor to watch and listen to their discussion.

Price Adoration for Flute and Piano

Florence Price's "Adoration" is really catching on. Flutist Suyeon Ko and pianist Joanne Chang made this lovely recording of the violin and piano version (in the original key), which I have uploaded to my YouTube channel.

Last week I made a dedicated flute and piano version that is set up a fifth, in the key of A major, which incorporates the violin double-stops into the piano part, and is a little bit easier to play. Suyeon and Joanne are planning to make a recording of that, and I will post that here as well. It will be interesting to compare the settings.

You can find the music here under "transcriptions."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

An Airing of Grievances

Michael and I have been doing our best to retain a little bit of sanity during the quarter of a year that we have spent socially distancing. We walk every day, and never share the sidewalk with anyone. We go to the grocery store every two weeks, and pick up Thai food every Friday night. We did make one trip to the liquor store, attend one Black Lives Matter demonstration, attend one drive-by 99th birthday party, and we make the occasional visit to the drive-by window at the bank.

I have been productive musically, and my violin playing has improved considerably. Online teaching has been going well, and I have been really grateful for the online musical interactions that I have had.

Michael and I have been diligently doing our part, but my anger at the people who don't "believe" in wearing masks is seeping through all my good intentions, and clawing away at my formerly positive attitude.

I can't take it anymore.

Imagine having just spent months cleaning up a house after having sustained a great deal of damage. And then imagine a bunch of people deciding to come inside and defecate all over the floor. That is what I feel about our prospects for a future where we can play chamber music again, give and go to concerts again, and where we can travel safely to see our children and grandchildren.

Experiencing the world through screens is no longer fun for me. It used to be an interesting alternative to the "real" world, and now it has become the "real" world. And since we each "live" in our own personally curated world, it is hard to really get a sense of who "we" are.

I am angry at my federal goverment (particularly the executive branch) and its leaders. I am angry at American Airlines for planning to fill its airplanes to capacity beginning next week. I am angry about the daily revelations concerning violence towards Black people by police. I'm angry at state and city officials who do not mandate wearing masks and observing social distancing. I'm angry at the people who refuse to wear masks in public as an expression of loyalty to their political party.

Dr. Fauci made a very clear statement about our interconnected world. Most of the other developed countries in the world have managed to control the rise of Covid-19. And now the United States, with its denial, selfishness, and reckless rush to reopen, is going to screw things up for the rest of the world as well as for the people who live on these shores. I apologize for the actions of my country to anyone reading this. I have never been so ashamed to be an American.

I'll slow down for a moment and take stock of a few good things:

Our air-conditioning works, and our plumbing is now reliable.

Michael and I put away all our laundry today. For the first time in months there are more clothes in the closets and dressers than outside of them.

My muscles are a little sore from practicing, but my joints and tendons are not hurting. That means I have been playing in a way that is physically healthy.

My eyesight is improving (one of the benefits of achieving a certain age, I have heard). I can play violn without glasses! I still need them for the viola because of those few extra inches.

I have bread rising, and tomorrow we will have fresh bread for breakfast.

Michael and I are reading a really good book. It comes on the heels of three novels we read that were written during in the Weimar Republic in Germany. And we have many more good books ahead.

I have a Bachian counterpoint project in the works. It's something I started a few years ago and set aside. Writing counterpoint is medicine for my soul.

I really can play the first violin parts of the Beethoven Opus 18 Quartets now--even the hard parts. And I have decided on the Végh Quartet as my "play along" recordings.

I have entered into a new phase of self-acceptance, and feel like I am growing as a human being in spite of the Pandora's box of disease, injustice, deception, racism, and ignorance that has taken up residence in the fragile "house" that we are trying to keep livable.

I also know that will be a future for music. It is just going to take a lot longer to get to than I had thought.

Is it November yet?

José White Lafitte

I am so happy to have found a set of violin etudes by José White Lafitte (also known as Joseph White), an Afro-Cuban violinist/composer who was active in Paris during the middle third of the 19th century. After leaving the Conservatoire, White Lafitte spent twenty years as director of the Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro. He then retired to Paris, where he remained until his death in 1918.

Rachel Barton Pine has recorded Number Six:

I have been having great fun practicing Number Three, which White dedicated to Vieuxtemps. Here's an excerpt:

You can learn more about White here.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Clayton Haslop

Clayton Haslop, who is best known for his studio work in Los Angeles, is a fantastic violinist. He is one of the many musicians who has had to contend with focal dystonia. I have never witnessed an accomplishment like playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with only two moving left-hand fingers. This man's understanding of how to play the violin is remarkable, and he is an exquisite musician.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Isolated Accomplishments

We live at some distance, both culturally and physically, from high-populations areas that, under normal circumstances, are buzzing with musical activity, so I'm used to working in a relative state of isolation. But these past three and a half months have done away with anything having to do with relativity.

Yesterday I finished a project that has been in the works for about a year, and today, in celebration of a task accomplished, I have compiled a list of the music that I have written and the music that I have arranged since we began isolating on March 14.

Saprophyte I for String Quartet

Birthday Piece Number Twelve for Viola d’amore and piano, the final installment in a series.

Eleven Miniature Studies for Violin Solo

Quo Vadis for Euphonium and Woodwind Quintet, a piece that will have its premiere in July as a distanced performance video. Then it will go into the IMSLP.

A Tunes: Capricious Pieces for Beginner Violinists a book of twenty-four caprices that will be published by Mel Bay.

"Impressions", five songs set to poems by Alice Ruth Moore (who is otherwise known as Alice Dunbar-Nelson).

"The Gift of the Condor" an entertaining animal-themed piece for narrator, chamber orchestra, and solo kid violinist that we hope will have great success in the children's concert circuit, once we start playing concerts again.

"Scarborough Fair" for Solo Viola

J.S. Bach Adagio from the F minor Violin Sonata, BWV 1018, arranged for String Quartet, Clarinet Quartet, and Viola Quartet

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 Finale for string sextet

Florence Price "Adoration" in a new arrangement for flute and piano

I have a couple more arrangements to do, and then I guess I'll just write some more new music. Writing music has provided a great escape from the fears and horrors of the outside world.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Augustin Hadelich and Florence Price

This project and pairing involves my transcription of Price’s “Adoration.” I am so honored. I am also so excited to hear the final project involving this lovely piece, in whatever form it may take.

Here's a screenshot of the post:

Friday, June 19, 2020

Lift Every Voice

And every voice lifts me. If you keep the YouTube rolling, you can fill your day with amazying arrangements of this song. This trombone choir arrangement is also wonderful.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The dream of Chevalier de Saint-Georges (a fantasy)

Joseph Bologne de Saint-Georges woke up in a cold sweat. He knew the story of Tartini's "Devil's Trill" sonata dream, so he made sure to notate the details of this dream, because he felt that it was equally strange and relevant:
There was a general plague that was infecting the whole world: Europe, Asia, and even the Americas. All the people wore masks. And even though they were instructed to stay in their houses, masked people in every country of the world took to the streets day after day to peacefully declare that the lives of black people mattered as much as the lives of white people. According to American law, slavery had been abolished for a hundred and fifty years, but black people were still being treated as second-class citizens. The crowds of people who were protesting (by the thousands) were made of black people and white people; both men and women.

Musicians who couldn't play together because of the plague stayed in their houses and used rectangular objects (that looked like decks of cards) to make likenesses of their playing. Exact recordings of what they played! And these objects could also capture images! Musicians sent their images with sound through the air (!!!) to people all over the world, and the recipient could see and hear the musical images instantly.

Musicians used these devices to record multiple sound images of themselves, and then they somehow managed to project the sound images in such a way that it looked and sounded like people were playing concerts with themselves. They could also play with other people this way.

The oddest thing of all was hearing a brilliant violinist in a blue shirt (and his double) playing both parts of my A major Duo--the one I just finished. This man reminds me of my young friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I hope that when Mozart grows up he is able to play as well as the man in my dream.

And then there was another part of my dream. There was a library of music that people could find through their rectangles (and there were also bigger rectangles that looked like windows and were about the size of a piece of music). A person of any class and any nationality could, without needing to make any financial transactions at all, find pieces of music and use their rectangular windows to read them.

And my name was there. I pressed a button, and I saw lists of music associated with me through the glass window. Some were pieces that I have written. But I also saw pieces I have only been thinking about writing!

I pressed the button for my collection of violin duos (it says that they will be published in 1800, which is nice to know).
And then he woke up.

Odd happenings: Sweet Gum on the YouTube

It's fun to search through YouTube and find recordings people have made of music I have written or music I have arranged. Last night I came upon a really nice recording of "Sweet Gum" from my "Autumn Leaves" set of violin duos. (If you listen closely you will hear the kookaburra gets a musical mention here and there.)

I have no idea who is playing. I wish I did. The performance is just great.

Here is the information on the YouTube entry:

Provided to YouTube by Independent Digital

Autumn Leaves: IV. Sweet Gum · Ted Nayes · Unknown · Elaine Fine

Music for the Moment: Classic Music on the Violin

℗ 2019 RMG Classical Records

Released on: 2019-04-18

Auto-generated by YouTube.
I'm particularly wierded out by the "Auto-generated by YouTube" part. And I wonder what Independent Digital is. A google search for Ted Nayes leads to all kinds of random musical stuff with titles like "ultimate relaxation." A search for the record label Ted Nayes is listed as being associated with, Rehegoo USA, is even more interesting.

I put the music for these duets in the IMSLP so that people could find them easily and play them. I have no problem with people making recordings of the music that I write, and even, as long as I know about it, selling those recordings commercially. But it is really odd having work that is part of an auto-generated listing on YouTube that doesn't give the names of the performers, or make it clear who wrote the music.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

There are 76 pieces (to date) of music by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in the IMSLP, and quite a few are for violin and piano.

You can find a good biography of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor here.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Impressions: settings of poetry by Alice Ruth Moore (also known as Alice Dunbar-Nelson)

You can find the music here (transposed higher here) and on this page of the IMSLP. You can listen to a computer-generated recording here.

Alice Ruth Moore (1875-1935), the daughter of a once-enslaved mother, was born in New Orleans. She graduated from Straight University, and worked in New Orleans as an elementary school teacher. During the 1920s and 1930s Moore, who then went by the name Alice Dunbar-Nelson, was an activist for African American rights and women’s rights, appearing often as a speaker, and writing essays, reviews, and articles in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals.

The cover art is by my mother, June Fine. I think that my mother would have liked the 20-year-old Moore's poetry (and her other writing) very much. The mood of the poetry, and consequently the music, is rather somber, but we are living in somber times.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Physical distancing, social solidarity

My friend Charles Delman writes:
The phrase ``social distancing'' may have given some the false impression that the purpose is individual protection. We should instead say ``physical distancing, social solidarity.'' The purpose of masks and physical distancing is to protect others, as well as oneself, and reduce the spread of the virus in the community as much as possible.

Social solidarity also requires the elimination of the racial and class inequities that underlie our obscenely unequal society, inequities that are enforced by our repressive policing system. Instead of allowing the repression of a large segment of our population with violence, let us instead build a society in which everyone is provided a good life, with access to good nutrition, good housing, good education, good health care, a healthy environment, and the other fundamentals of a fulfilling life, as a matter of right, rather than as commodities to be bought and sold.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Welcome to the Future

Yesterday I participate in a Zoom discussion that was hosted by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra concerning the state of racial imbalance in many of the major American musical institutions (performing and educational). I was extremely impressed with the young people (meaning people who are still students) who spoke, and am eager to aquaint myself with the work of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, which, I believe, is a window to the music of the future.

Schoenberg believed, for a period of time, that the future of music would lie in atonality. He was partially right, because the music of his future (the one that happened after he died--on the date that he predicted he would die) does involve atonality and does involve serialism. The people who wrote for television in the 1970s incorporated serialism and atonality into their scores. Most people watching shows like Bonanza probably didn't even realize that dramatic tension on the screen was often underscored with atonality. And don't forget about Jerry Goldsmith's brilliant score for Planet of the Apes.

Schoenbergian twelve-tone music, and music that followed the atonal course scared concert-goers away from concerts that included "twentieth-century music." Atonality was big when I was young. I actually take nostalgic comfort in hearing the atonality that underscored my teenage years and young adulthood, but I have learned that as human beings we all have emotional ties to the music we heard during those years.

When I was young there were records, cassettes, the radio, concerts, school ensembles, and extra-curricular ensembles. The music we read from was limited to music that was published. I had the opportunity at Tanglewood to hear "in-manuscript" pieces being performed, and also had the opportunity to attend and participate in composers' forums at Juilliard.

With very few exceptions, the music I heard and played during my youth was written by men of European descent. I had no idea that the pop music that I heard on the radio and in public places was performed or written by people who were not of European descent. Nobody told me. And I thought that jazz was a music that only Black people played well. White people who played jazz were, in my limited and immature mind, limited.

There were female singers (obviously), and female song writers who sang their own songs, but as a young person I never thought that there were female composers who wrote anything except pop music. I heard about Lili Boulanger and Nadia Boulanger when I was a teenager hanging out with composers at Tanglewood, and people talked about Clara Schumann (but nobody played her music) and Amy Beach (made fun of in my household), but I thought that they were exceptions to the rule that only men wrote music. There were no female composers at Juilliard. Victoria Bond was a conducting student there. I had no idea she was a composer. Elizabeth Brown was one of my fellow flute students. I had no idea she was a composer.

And there were very few people of color who were students, and none who were teachers. None.

The future at that point looked to me like the past, except with difficult (to play and hear) twentieth-century music added to the mix, and occasionally celebrated.

My life changed through working at a radio station, reading, listening, and learning new music. I was fortunate. I had a record library at the radio station, and I had a university library (with a card catalog) across the campus, and an interlibrary loan system.

People coming of musical age now can curate their own "comfort music" through YouTube. If they are smart, they will use this amazing resource to develop their own opinions and ideas of what is "good" and what is not. They don't have to rely on "gatekeepers" or even algorithms. Wikipedia is, I have found, a better music encyclopedia than Grove.

And through this Covid-19 isolation young people who have a taste for music (and a good internet connection) can hear performances of new music remotely. And they will see and hear that people writing and playing "classical music" really well are people of all genders, of all races, and of all nationalities.

There are some serious points of growth that have been brought on by the Covid-19 isolation:
We are learning that there are excellent musicians everywhere. Great playing is not something that you only find in big cities. You find it everywhere.

And there are a lot of people using this time of isolation to practice.

Musicians are innovative: in the first weeks of the isolation musicians with smartphones and computers figured out how to record themselves and assemble plausible performances of short pieces with other musicians isolated in different places. I have heard some of the most moving performances put together in this way.

A lot of people use a free Acapella smartphone app that publishes directly to Facebook and Instagram. Selections are limited to three or four minutes, so shorter "classical" musical selections are being recorded and performed in this way a lot. Musicians who would not normally try their hand at arranging are making excellent arrangements. And we all know that making arrangements is a gateway drug to composition.

Some musicians are finding that they enjoy the technical process of weaving together remote voices. Some are "producing" excellent videos. These are skills of the future, because I believe that this way of music making will retain a place in the post-Covid-19 musical future.

I don't think that musicians will be abandoning the friendships they have made through these videos.

Musicians have time and space to think about what their organizations will look like once we are able to play together in real spaces, with in-person audiences. I imagine that the future of those organizations will need to be far more inclusive concerning race and gender because that is where (eventually) the greater cultures of the world are headed. And there will be more and more ensembles like Kaleidoscipe run (I hope) by people like the students I met on this forum. There is no "going back" to the way things were. And I think that is a good thing.

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Robert Nathaniel Dett's "Night" arranged for euphonium and tuba ensemble

This video tribute is set to an awesome (in the true sense of the word) eight-voice arrangement of "Night" from Robert Nathaniel Dett's 1913 solo piano suite "In the Bottoms." The arrangement was made by Jasmine Pigott. She is joined (from varios remote locations) by Jermaine Fryer, Benjamin Horne, David Lamotey, Remus Webb, Jason Tanksley, Noah McDonald, Errol Rhoden, and Andre Thacker as the appropriately-named "COVID 19 Black All-Star Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble."

Instutute for Composer Diversity Spotlight on Black Composers

The Institute for Composer Diversity, a newly-created (in-process) interactive database of composers who are generally underrepresented in the field of classical music, is featuring Black composers this month. They started with composers of music for brass, particuarly for Euphonium and Tuba.

You can have a look here.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Lisa Hirsch Speaks the Truth

Thank you, Lisa.

Read her post calling out the American League of Orchestras. Then read her two posts about solidarity here and here.

And then you can spend the next several weeks thinking about how the field of what we call "classical music" can move into a better 21st century, along with the rest of the world.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

What's an analogy?

Yesterday afternoon I was trying to get my (hard-working but a bit overwhelmed) nine-year-old student to pay attention to the tasks at hand in the measure he was playing. I thought immediately of sitting at a railroad crossing watching the train cars go slowly by, and it crossed my mind that once a train car has moved past my field of vision I don't think about it anymore.

Me: Have you ever been sitting in a car stopped at a railroad crossing, watching train cars go by?

Student: I don't think so.

Me: I guess I'll have to think of another analogy.

Student: What's an analogy?

Monday, June 01, 2020

Vernā Myers on how to overcome our biases

These eighteen minutes of compassionate wisdom really helped me today.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Miniature Studies for Violin Solo 6 through 11

The rest of the set!

VI. What the Hex?
VII. Seas, Days, Hills, and Rainbows
VIII. Arachnida
IX. Pluto
X. Das Hexen - Einmal- Eins!
XI. Group Eleven

Music by Elaine Fine
Performed by Linnaea Brophy

You can find a link to the music here.

Ella's Song

Listening to this helps, somehow. Just a little bit.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The sound that says love, a ramble

After my parents discarded the Zenith 87232 "Bakelite" tube radio that we kept in the kitchen, I brought it into my room. On Sunday nights I would listen to a program that played soundtracks from shows, and I would record them on cassette and play them over and over. One of my favorite shows was Applause.
What is it that we're living for?
Applause applause!
Nothing I know
brings on the glow
like sweet applause.

You're thinking you’re through
and nobody cares
then suddenly you
hear it

And somehow you're in charge again
and life's a ball
trumpets all sing,
life seems to swing
And you're the king of it all, 'cause

You've had a taste of
the sound that says love:
Applause, applause, applause!

[I eventually had to throw the radio away after one of tubes gave out and I could not find a replacement. But life goes on, I guess.]

Anyway, I loved the song because of the tune, the harmony, the way the words rhymed and the way it felt to sing them, the dynamic contrasts, the contrasts in texture, and the rhythm. But I could not make sense of the idea of applause as being the sound of love. The music itself was the sound of love to me. The applause was the noise that followed.

But I suppose there are people who really do "get" something from being applauded. Don't get me wrong, I like to applaud when I am part of an audience. It is a great physical release after experiencing the intense kind of emotional connections that music makes possible. It is a great way to "connect" with a group of people who just shared an emotional experience.

But it isn't the sound that says love to me.

Now, during the era of Covid-19 isolation, where the closest thing to experiencing the illusion of applause is to make a livestream from the place you are living, and getting "likes" and "loves" in emoji form stream upward because people in faraway places press buttons on their phones, tablets, or computers.

If I were to make a livestream, would I be looking at the emojis and feel love coming from them rather than concentrating on the music? Would it be more meaningful to me than applause? Would it be less meaningful than applause?

When I think of my childhood, my best memories are the sounds of love coming from the basement. My father practicing was the sound of love. The sound of loving sound. And I identified it as love. That sound of love was what motivated me to practice, and being able to experience the sound of love with other people was, for me, the sharing of love. Teaching for me has always been the act of trying to ignite that love of music in other people. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

I have had students of all stripes over the years. Many of them play because of the attention it necessitates from their parents. Many parents who love music want their children to play because they never had the chance. For some of those children the act of music is part of their loving relationship with their parents: they know that when they give love through music it is accepted as a gift of love.

For some children the process of playing music has everything to do with pleasing me (their teacher). For some of those children I am just another teacher: a person to who will be discarded from memory when the student moves to another grade, and for some I am gifted with the art of showing them how to express themselves.

My best musical experiences with students happen when they reveal something beautiful about themselves through music: when they fall in love with music itself, and when they physically understand that they are in charge of making the journey from point A to point B, and can draw on their creativity to figure out exactly how they want to go.

I listened to a lot of concerts as a teenager, and I listened a lot to people playing in a variety of non-concert situations. And like most teenagers I thought I knew a lot about the world. One accurate observation I made as a teenager proves that I did have a bit of wisdom: I knew that there was a difference between those who "played at" and those who "played to."

I deemed "playing at" bad and "playing to" good. I was a teenager, and did not have the experience to understand the complexities of life or of music. I tried to figure out rhythmic ways of not sounding like I was "playing at," and found ways of intellectually manipulating phrases so that they gave the illusion of bringing someone into my musical train of thought rather than bashing them over the head with it.

Now, after a few decades of experience, I see the whole thing differently.

I know a person who loves music deeply can play with very little feeling about who is in the room, or who is listening. That person can put up an imaginary bubble, and live within that world while the music is happening. S/he can be totally engaged, and the music can be wonderful. The act of playing can be a dialogue with timbre, the length and contour of phrases, linear harmony, vertical harmony, harmonic rhythm, and the composer, withought regard for whether s/he is alive or dead.

A person "playing to" can be playing in order to seek approval, or in order to receive feelings of love in exchange for lovely phrases of music. Or a person "playing to" can be eagerly trying to engage the listener in what s/he loves about a piece of music.

Perhaps the synthesis of the better parts of "playing to" and "playing at" is way of thinking about playing “for” whoever is listening. And that is how I choose to live my more mature musical life.

The ways of life we, as human beings, have experienced over the course of recorded human history is now taking turns through blind alleys that lead to an "elsewhere" we do not have the capacity to understand. It makes me wonder about the changes happening in the collective musical "organism" (and I like to believe that there is one that unites you and me through music) during this period of isolation and into the future.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Augustin Hadelich plays Praeludium and Allegro!

I hope that this gives you as much absolute musical pleasure as it gives me.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Goods and Services

"Why have you come to Berlin?"

"Formerly a woman gave herself and was valued as a gift. Now we are paid, and the day comes when we are thrown aside, like all goods that are bought and made use of. It's cheaper to pay cash, thinks the man."

"Formerly a gift and a commodity were two quite different things. Now a gift is merely a commodity that can be bought for nothing. Its cheapness makes the purchaser suspicious. It must be a bad bargain, he thinks. And generally he is right. For later the woman presents him with the bill. Suddenly he is called on to refund the moral price of the gift. In moral currency. As a pension for life.
From Erich Kästner's Going to the Dogs: The Story of a Moralist.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Rachel Young and Jessica Smithhorn a movement of my Duo for Oboe and Bassoon

What a treat it was to find this today!

Learning how a great musician thinks

This video of Augustin Hadelich commenting on his performance (as a 13-year-old) of the Sibelius Concerto is fascinating. This, my friends, is an fantastic example of how a great musician thinks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Livestream with Augustin Hadelich and Ray Chen

This is nearly two hours, so you might need more than one sitting for this. Of particular interest to me is the way Augustin likens practicing difficult music to solving a Rubik's cube, by separating the difficulties. It's part masterclass, and part podcast-type discussion. And at the end the two violinists take out their ocarinas and successfullly demonstrate what it is like to be a novice at something.

(And you also get to hear Augustin go from essentially "zero" on the ocarina to an almost acceptable 20 m.p.h. in the course of a few minutes of practice.)