Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Monday, December 28, 2020

Swann's Way and Proust's wisdom

Today we finished Swann's Way, the first volume of In Search of Lost Time. I'm eager to start the second volume tomorrow, but I just want to leave a little souvenir here before moving on. This is from the last few pages, and is not any kind of a "spoiler." For people intereted in the idea of spending the remainder of the pandemic reading Proust, I would consider this little tidbit a nice appetizer.
But when a belief disappears, there survives it--more and more vigorous so as to mask the absence of the power we have lost to give reality to new things--a fetishistic attachment to the old things which our belief once animated, as if it were in them and not in us, that the divine resided and as if present lack of belief had a contingent cause, the death of the Gods.

Friday, December 25, 2020

In Search of Lost Tune

The usual contenders for the Violin Sonata tune that runs through Proust's In Search of Lost Time are French or Belgian violin and piano pieces of the period (i.e. Franck, Fauré, or Saint-Saëns), but now that I am actually reading the first volume of the novel, I have had the subversive thought that the piece may not be French at all.

Proust refers to specific pieces of music by Liszt, Chopin, and Wagner, Gluck, and Beethoven, but he never mentions Mendelssohn, at least not in the first two volumes.

After reading the passage on page 362 of the Lydia Davis translation of Swann's Way
When, after the Verdurin evening, he had had the little phrase played over for him, and had sought to disentangle how it was that, like a perfume, like a caress, it encircled him, enveloped him, he had realize that it was to the closeness of the intervals between the five notes that composed it, and to the constant repetition of two of them, that was due this impression of frigid and withdrawn sweetness . . .
I knew I had found a clue. An odd set of circumstances followed. At least odd for me. I thought of the usual suspects from the French Violin Sonata repertoire, and couldn't think of a “stand-out” tune that would fit that description. But, when I reached for my copy of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (you can listen to the whole piece here), which I only thought of practicing today because of some technical things regarding shifting and bowing I have been working on lately, I found that the tranquillo theme in the first movement that gets developed through all three movements fits the bill.





Here it is in a higher register which further illustrates this description, “What had happened was that the violin had risen to a series of high notes on which it lingered as though waiting for something, holding on to them in a prolonged expectancy, in the exaltation of already seeing the object of its expectation approaching, and with a desperate effort to try to endure until it arrived, to welcome it before expiring, to keep the way open for it another moment with a last bit of strength so that it could come through, as one holds a trapdoor that would otherwise fall back.”
Further evidence of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto as the model for the Venteuil Sonata comes from these passages in Swann's Way:

“It was the andante from the Sonata for Piano and Violin by Vinteuil.”
[The second movement of the Mendelssohn Concerto is marked “Andante.”]

“He would begin with the sustained violin tremolos that are heard alone for a few measures, occupying the entire foreground . . . ” “But they fell silent; under the agitation of the violin tremolos which protected it with their quivering . . .”





“The beautiful dialogue which Swann heard between the piano and the violin at the beginning of the last passage” has to refer to this statement of a variation of the melody in the last movement, which is an emotional high point of the piece:



At any rate, I think that in pages 362 through 366 Proust describes the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto as accurately as he describes the depths of the human heart. I will leave you with this. It's time to make some coffee and read more Proust!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Paul Hindemith’s Art!

I never knew that Paul Hindemith was such a good cartoonist!

Christmas Eve einmal anders

It is unusual to think of Erik Satie's Gymnopedie No. 1 as being an appropriate piece for Christmas Eve, but in this most unusual of unusual years this matches my mood exactly. Thank you to my friends in Lithuania for making such a beautiful distanced video, and putting it on YouTube this evening.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Jingle All the Way!

Last week I made a simple arrangement of "Jingle Bells" for my beginning violin students to play, and then I dressed it up with a few more voices, and made a version for viola. I shared the music with a few Facebook groups, and I am really happy to have found these "return greetings" on YouTube! Here's one of the version for viola

And a video of the version for violin:

Here's a festive video with percussion from Judith Ingolfsson,


and further arranged as a duet:

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Now is the time of monsters

Heather Cox Richardson's post for today, written about yesterday in the wee hours of this morning, begins with a quote from the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, "The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters."

She presents the events of the day (and I mean THE actual previous day) in a way that manages to distill and organize the confusion of what we read, hear, and see on the news, and she puts everything in true historical perspective.

Today's lesson in historical perspective involves Joe Biden's nomination of Representative Deb Haaland from New Mexico to be the Secretary of the Interior. She explains why having a person who was a tribal leader of the Laguna Pueblo people before becoming a member of congress in that position is a "recognition of 170 years of American history and the perversion of our principles by men who lusted for power," and "a sign that we are finally trying to use the government for the good of everyone." 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

In for the long haul: In Search of Lost Time and The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr

Since living in the present these days means looking ahead for an unknown length of time for a future when we can all interact safely, without the worry of unwittingly passing this Covid virus to people we know and to people we don't know, there is little better for me for me to pass that time with than a multi-volume novel. It gives this unknown length of time ahead a sense of structure.

Michael and I finished Robertson Davies's The Cornish Trilogy a couple of weeks ago, and then, because he knew I wanted to read it, Michael gave me (as a thoughtful gift) a copy of E.T.A. Hoffmann's The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, which figures prominently, along with E.T.A. Hoffmann, in The Cornish Trilogy.

Tomcat Murr (or Kater Murr in the original German) is an unwitting collaboration between a cat who has taught himself to read and write, and his master, who has (unknowingly) provided the reverse sides of some of the pages for a book he is writing about a composer named Kreisler. So we get two stories that break off and switch suddenly. Fortunately the editor, who happens to be one "E.T.A. Hoffmann," has indicated in the text where the breaks occur. I'm only about forty pages in, but I am confident that the rest of the novel will be as entertaining and engaging as the beginning.

And then there's the Proust. Michael has read the whole series of novels twice, and I have "read at" it over the past several decades, but never in this wonderful Lydia Davis translation, and never with the readerly experience I have acquired during my time as a "mature" adult.

Proust writes about music from the standpoint of a highly sensitive listener who is not a musician himself, which is always a good perspective for those of us who are in the business of creating and recreating music to keep in mind. Rather than write "about" what I am reading, I'll just leave a sample from the section called "Swann in Love" here.
He would find several of her favorite pieces open on the piano: the “Valse des Roses” or “Pauvre Fou” by Tagliafico (which should, according to her wishes, which she had put into writing, be performed at her funeral); he would ask her to play instead the little phrase from Vinteuil’s sonata, even though Odette played very badly, but the loveliest vision of a work of art that remains with us is often the one that transcended the wrong notes coaxed by unskillful fingers from an out-of-tune piano. For Swann the little phrase continued to be associated with the love he felt for Odette. He was aware that this love was something that did not correspond to anything external, anything verifiable by others besides him; he realized that Odette’s qualities did not justify his attaching so much value to the time he spent with her. And often, when Swann’s positive intelligence alone prevailed, he wanted to stop sacrificing so many intellectual and social interests to this imaginary pleasure. But as soon as he heard it, the little phrase had the power to open up within him the space it needed, the proportions of Swann’s soul were changed by it; a margin was reserved in him for a bliss that also did not correspond to any external object, and yet, instead of being purely individual, like the enjoyment of that love, assumed for Swann a reality superior to that of concrete things. The little phrase incited in him this thirst for an unfamiliar delight, but it did not give him anything precise to assuage it. So that those parts of Swann’s soul from which the little phrase had erased any concern for material interests, any considerations that were human and valid for all people, it left vacant and blank, and in them he was free to write Odette’s name. Moreover, where Odette’s affection might seem somewhat limited and disappointing, the little phrase came along to add to it, to amalgamate with it its mysterious essence. From the sight of Swann’s face as he listened to the phrase, one would have said he was absorbing an anesthetic that allowed him to breathe more deeply. And the pleasure which the music gave him, and which was soon to create in him a true need, did indeed resemble, at those moments, the pleasure he would have found in testing fragrances, in entering into contact with a world for which we are not made, which seems formless to us because our eyes do not perceive it, meaningless because it evades our understanding, which we can attain only through a single sense. What great repose, what mysterious renewal for Swann—for him whose eyes, though refined lovers of painting, whose mind, though a shrewd observer of manners, bore forever the indelible trace of the aridity of his life—to feel himself transformed into a creature strange to humanity, blind, without logical faculties, almost a fantastic unicorn, a chimerical creature perceiving the world only through his hearing. And since he still searched the little phrase for a meaning to which his intellect could not descend, what strange drunkenness he felt, as he divested his innermost soul of all the help of reason and forced it to pass alone through the sieve, through the dark filter of sound! He began to become aware of all that was painful, perhaps even secretly unappeased in the depths of the sweetness of that phrase, but it could not hurt him. What did it matter if it told him love was fragile, his own love was so strong! He toyed with the sadness it diffused, he felt it pass over him, but in a caress that only deepened and sweetened his sense of his own happiness. He made Odette play it ten times, twenty times, demanding that while she did so she should not stop kissing him. Each kiss summons another. Ah, in those first days of our love, kisses come so naturally! So closely, in their profusion, do they crowd together; and it would be as hard for us to count the kisses we give each other in an hour as the flowers of a field in the month of May. Then she would make as if to stop, saying: “How can you expect me to play if you hold on to me? I can’t do everything at once.”

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Beethoven's 250th

I was just listening to a Radiolab podcast from this past May that concerns Beethoven's metronome markings. You can read the transcript here, if you like. The discussion concerning the speed at which Beethoven indicated his symphonies should be played (yawn) has been going on continuously for at least a century. My ambivalent feelings about Beethoven's metronome markings have to do with my belief that all composers hear music in their head too quickly. They want to make their way from the beginning of a phrase to the end of a phrase, and without the physical sensation of touch or friction, which is very difficult to imagine in a satisfying way. In the musical space in our inner ears there is nothing to prevent difficult combinations of pitches and rhythms to make their way clearly through even the most difficult topography. It just doesn't happen as easily in actual physical conditions.

I found a very interesting dissertation from 2016 by Marten A. Noorduin from the University of Manchester that discusses metronome markings in published editions of Beethoven's music (including his string quartets and piano music) that were added by his contemporaries Karl Holtz, Carl Czerny, and Ignaz Moscheles. I have only browsed through it, but I do intend to read it carefully (which is one reason I'm putting it here, a far easier place to find it than on my computer desktop).

What I did learn from it was that Beethoven didn't retroactively indicate metronome markings for his string quartets or any of his chamber music involving strings the way he did for his symphonies. I imagine it is because he knew that the tempo of a string quartet is always flexible, and he had the skill to write the music in such a way that the correct tempo would be inevitable. Four string players with the laws of physics in play will find the tempos that work best for them. Knowing these pieces rather intimately, I can't imagine any way that tempo indications could improve them. They are already masterpieces. All they require is to be played by thoughtful and skilled people, and the tempos take care of themselves. His symphonies, on the other hand, require a conductor. And that conductor may or may not be as thoughtful or as skilled as the people doing the playing.

My project during what was to be a year-long celebration of Beethoven's music before the pandemic made it impossible to play or attend concerts, was to learn the first violin parts of all the string quartets. I have played the viola parts of many of them, but not the violin parts. In order to do this I really had to improve my skills on the violin, particularly navigatigating the upper parts of the E string where the first violin lives a lot of the time. Acquiring the technical facility to play the Opus 18 Quartets took me several months, and learning to play the first violin parts well enough to play along with my favorite recordings (and the Colorado Quartet's recording is still my favorite) took me many more months. Now that I have the technique I need, the Opus 59, 74, and 95 quartets are within reach. Though I did try, I imagine that being able to play the late quartets with my favorite recordings with any sense of comfort and fluency will probably take another year.

What I have learned about Beethoven from this experience is that he really understood the violin. He understood everything that the violin could do, and he understood what kinds of gestures feel good on the violin. I enjoy playing his viola parts, but I enjoy playing his violin parts more. And from Beethoven I am learning what the violin is, and what it is capable of doing.

Once we are able to play chamber music again, I imagine that my Beethoven Quartet playing (which I really hope will be able to happen in non-performance situations) will be from the viola "chair." But that's fine with me. The private experience I am having with Beethoven's first violin parts is very special and very personal, and knowing the "territory" will help me to understand more about his quartets when I approach them again from the inside.

I still have to decide which quartets to play on December 16th!

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Scottish Freelancers Ensemble Christmas Program

I am so happy to be connected with these Scottish musicians! This is such a beautifully put together (and played and sung) program.



And they used my arrangement of Holst's "In the Bleak Midwinter" for their intermission music (while you go refill your cocoa or your glass of wine). The music is wonderful, but I'm also loving the speaking. I get so emotional when I hear people from Scotland speak (and play, particularly when the music is traditional).

Friday, December 04, 2020

Dreidel Fantasy for Solo Cello

There seems to be a dearth of Hannukah-themed solo cello music, so, at the request of a friend in need, I wrote this. I hope it brightens up your holiday season!



You can find the music on this page of the IMSLP.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Composing as a Craft

During one of the many conversations I had with Seymour Barab over the years, he referred to his composing as his "craft." I was kind of startled at the time, but now I completely understand why he used that term, because so much of composing is craft. The act of composing is, in essence, taking (or making) materials, and assembling them in a pleasing way. Part of the craft of composing comes from removing the stuff that doesn't work, and reassembling the stuff that does work so that it can work better. It involves moving pitches around, expanding and contracting meter so that the music at hand is easy to read and easy to play or sing, once you get the pitches and rhythms learned. It involves manipulating textures (articulation) and dynamics, so that the musical lines you or I have drawn have a map to follow. It is important to keep the journey interesting. Like any journey it should have a clean start, interesting experiences along the way, time for reflection, motivation to continue, and it should come to a satisfying end.

I have been assembling material (arranging music) for half my life now, and only started working with my own material in the last twenty five years. I must have had a "backlog" of material rolling around in my unconscious from all of my playing and listening experiences, because melodic and thematic ideas kept bobbing to the surface demanding that I play with them. At that point composing felt like art, and I was kind of intoxicated with inspiration. My life with busy with school (I was studying composition), work (I had a graduate assistantship which involved a lot of grading, and had CD reviews to write), family (Michael and our two growing kids), practicing, quartet playing, and orchestra playing, but I got up very early in the morning and chain-wrote a lot of music.

People seemed to like what I wrote, but I can't say that people took my work very seriously. I guess I was writing lyrical music during a time when minimalism and/or avant-garde looping were the new-musical fare. Or maybe it was because I was a woman working in a field that was so dominated by men. Maybe it was because I lacked craft (you can never have enough craft), or maybe it was because I didn't (and still don't) live in a cosmopolitan place, or that I never went beyond a Master's Degree, and therefore, other than teaching at a community college, I am not part of the academic hierarchy.

Being an "outsider" does have its perks, though. I have had to make my own way, and seek out my own challenges. But most of all I have had time to develop my craft. Now, at the age of sixty-one, I feel like I can rely on my craft to do just about anything I want. Craft has been a nice companion during this Covid-19 isolation. It has allowed me to be able to work out feelings through the music I write, and I feel like I have a larger community of musicians who live in cosmopolitan places, but are also isolated.

So I have been writing music for musicians to play and sing at home. People do need new music to play, and I'm happy that my craft is sufficient to write music that people like to play and sing.

In my virtual world of Facebook and Twitter, I see that a lot of performing musicians have been writing their own music during this isolation. Some of them create their own publishing companies, and some sell their newly-written music through their websites, which, for the business-minded musician is the only way to make any money from writing music. I put almost all of my newly-written music in the IMSLP because it is an easy way to get music to people who need it (or want it) now. It provides a sense of instant gratification and a feeling of connection with other musicians, so it works for me.

I do have eighty pieces of music published by commercial publishers (some of it forthcoming), so anyone who wants to buy my published music can. My published music isn't my property, and I only get royalty checks every few years, because ASCAP doesn't issue checks that amount to less than $25.

I have written a lot of music these past few weeks, and feel almost like the reverse of the way I felt during my first bout of chain writing between 1999 and 2005. Now I am intoxicated by craft. Ideas come, and I can write them down in a coherent form fairly quickly, and it is in the craft of working with them that I get my jollies.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Musical Life after Covid

Musicians have been engaging in musical life during the pandemic because it is what we do. Teachers have been teaching, students have beeen practicing, professional musicians have been practicing, and a fortunate relative handful have been playing masked concerts that are broadcast over the internet. Musicians with computer skills and the equipment to compile distanced videos have been compiling and sharing. Composers have been composing, and arrangers have been arranging.

Aside from not making money from playing concerts and playing weddings, not being able to play chamber music when the weather outside is cold or rainy, not being able to rehearse for community concerts with my piano partner, not being able to play duets with my students and friends, not being able to meet with my Renaissance group, not being able to have Summer Strings or Holiday Strings, and not being able to hear other people play in real time and space (not translated into soundwaves through a microphone and then translated by via speakers), my musical life hasn't changed that much. I actually have had more contact with musicians in far-away places than before, simply because remote contact is now the norm rather than exception.

Festivals and conferences, which are basically ways of allowing musicians in specific areas of interest to interact socially and musically, have been happening online. They might even continue to have an online component after the pandemic so that people without the financial means to travel (flying with instruments is never fun) can participate. Many of our musical worlds have even expanded during this time. Symphony orchestras, both "major" and "minor" have expanded their future repertoire to include more music written by women, people of color, and people who are living. This is all good.

There is so much music available to listen to online that it is difficult to "keep up" with all that is new and all that has been rediscovered. We are "directed" through our devices by musicians and promoters towards performances and premiers of interest, and many listeners who are not practicing musicians (and some who are) set aside time to watch these recorded performances with the same kind of excitement they would have if they were going to an in-person concert.

But when it is safe to go to concerts again, will people go? Will people in America show up for concerts played by "lesser known" musicians in smaller cities and towns? Will they go to concerts given by professional orchestras that have music they don't know on the program? Will audiences still be hesitant to spend their evening listening to "new music" for fear of encountering atonality? (Incidentally I haven't encountered much in the way of atonality in the internets during this Covid isolation. Has extra-musical life of late been simply so absurd that people crave harmony?)

I shared this photo on Facebook with the caption "Haydn for Biden," to which a violist friend responded, "But will Biden be for Haydn." Let's hope that non-pop music and the musicians who play it, sing it, and write it will be included in the "building back better" chapter of the American future.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

I'm Staying Home This Christmas

I came across this photograph the other day. The tune is obviously not "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and the syllables don't even match the rhythms. However, if you ignore the left-hand harmony, the tune sounds like a second theme of a song I may have heard before.

It started bothering me. The tune fragment kept running through my head with the words, "I'm staying home this Christmas," so I had to use it in a brand-new Christmas song addressing the stamp issue and the current Christmas season. You will find the tune on the stamp at the half-way point of the song. The "original" is in F major, and this song is a whole-step lower, in the key of E-flat major.



You can find a PDF here, and on this page of the IMSLP.

I have spared you a rendition with me singing, but I would be happy to host any festive readings of it (made at home, of course) on this page.

. . . And here's a festive recording by Susan Nelson!



(Thank you, Susan.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"That's What She Said" about "A Cellist's Garden of Verses"

Erica Lessie's November 2020 "Postcard" over at the Cello Museum has an in-depth analysis of the set of pieces based on Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses" that I wrote for solo cello.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Schubert B flat Trio recording from 1927 played by Myra Hess, Yelly D'Aranyi, and Felix Salmond

This very kind man has been spending his time during the pandemic making videos from his (fantastic and rare) 78s using an "original instrument": a Rankin-restored EMG Model Xb Oversize Gramophone with medium tone steel needles.

This amazing recording was made on December 30, 1927, with pianist Myra Hess, violinist Yelly D'Aranyi, and cellist Felix Salmond was issued on English Columbia discs L 2103 to L 2106.



You can find all his videos here. I know where I am going to be doing a lot of my listening . . .

Many Moons

I was so excited to find this beautiful performance of my setting of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Moon" yesterday on YouTube, so I'm sharing it in the company of other musical settings of the poem, just because I can.



This one written by my friend Seymour Barab was recorded in 1953 by Russell Oberlin.

Here is one written and sung by Linda Trillhaase:

and one written by Margarita Zelenaia:



Here's a two-voice setting by Glenda E. Franklin: and a rather "poppy" (but attractive) one by Igor Loseev:



I found some more pop settings, but they are all preceded with ads, so I will spare you the "ad-gony" (my newly-coined word for the feeling that happens when you anticipate hearing a particular piece of music on a YouTube link and get an ad instead). While searching through the videos on YouTube I came across this lovely setting of eight poems from A Child's Garden of Verses written and sung by Jason Mulligan. He doesn't have a setting of "The Moon" in this volume, but he might have it in a forthcoming volume.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

From a house in Texas, a house in Michigan, and an old house in Paris . . .

to my house and your house.



Stephanie Bork lives in Texas and Christine Beamer lives in Michigan. They used Zoom to record this piece that I wrote as an experiment in communicating musically through remote video. What I particularly love about this video is that it is a real-time performance and not an assembling of parts. Stephanie and Christine make eye contact with one another in the same way that they would make eye contact if they were in the same room.

They watch one another's bows, welcome the periods of cacophony that result from the lags that happen with Zoom (a little random cacaphony is written into the music to illustrate the text), and they are surprised at the moments when things are suddenly perfectly synchronized.

They both have the words of the story going through their heads as they are playing, adding a third shared "voice" to the music making. If the words resonate in your head as well, then there is yet another voice added to the remote "chorus."

This time of pandemic is difficult for everyone, and we all have to be creative in the ways we compensate for not being able to do the things we do that require sharing space. Musicians, actors, and dancers have to try to cope in different ways from people who do not play, sing, act, or dance. From an early age social interaction often meant playing, singing, acting, and dancing with our friends. It is through those activities that they (we) found friends as young people, and it is the way we find friends as adults. For some of us, it is the way we make our living.

Writing music that can be used to connect people musically over physical distance has been one of the activities that has preserved my sanity over this frightening time. Usually it is the writing itself that keeps the despair away--the way that sounds, words, pitches, rhythms, and textures interact with one another in horizontal and vertical ways, but the chance to make new musical friends through writing, and being able to see and hear people I have never met in person interact with one another musically through the pitches and rhythms that I have assembled, and an unvoiced text that resonates loudly in the head along with the music, brings real joy. Thank you Stephanie. Thank you Christine.

You can find links to the music, which I have arranged for many combinations of instruments, on this page of my Thematic Catalog Blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Seymour Barab's Shadow

I love this setting of Robert Louis Stevenson's "My Shadow" by Seymour Barab. I got a 2010 CD reissue of the whole cycle, but aside from the composer and the countertenor, there is no indication of who else is playing. I am getting old enough to have mortality-related regrets. If Seymour were still alive (he would be turning 100 in January), I could call him on the phone and ask him. But I didn't know about his setting of these poems from A Child's Garden of Verses until last week, and hadn't heard them until today.
You can find all the songs in the cycle here. It seems to be one of those entries put on YouTube as a "host" for ads, unfortunately.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Windy Nights

Spoils of the day:

Sunday, November 15, 2020

On Such a Winter's Day performed by Rebecca Johnson



The video is set to start at the beginning of "On Such A Winter's Day," (the last piece on the program) but you can start at the beginning to hear the whole concert (Camargo Guarnieri's "Three Improvisations," Cordero's "Soliloquios No. 1," Fukushima's "Mei," and Lieberman's "Soliloquy).

The Anonymous Lover free streaming performance through November 29

I had little success watching the premiere livestream last night because it kept stopping, so I was happy to watch the archived performance this morning. you can access it through this webiste.

The opera, written in French in 1780, has a lighthearted and entertaining plot. The dialog is in English, and the arias, duets, and ensemble numbers are in French (so nifty to hear what we have come to think of as an Italian-style opera in French). There is also some lovely ballet music, accompanied by some wonderful dancing. The production is rather remarkable, considering the fact that the singers are not in the same physical spaces at the same times.

The singing is spectacular, the orchestral playing is excellent, the acting is pretty good, the direction is remarkably effective considering the circumstances, but it is the music itself that steals my heart. The immediate comparison is to Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges's friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but in many ways I feel that Mozart should be the one compared to Bologne.

Watch the video for yourself. The production is 90 minutes long. You can scroll through the dialog, but don't miss the wedding ballet.

I enjoyed reading James Conlon's program note, and imagine you would too.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Come, Ye Thankful People Come for various ensembles

Thanksgiving is coming up, and even if we can't safely celebrate it indoors with friends and family, we can celebrate it remotely with music. I made a few arrangements of "Come, Ye Thankful People Come" that can be played in the groups specified (strings, bassoons, trombones) or in various combinations of strings, bassoons, and trombones (or other bass-clef brass instruments). I combined audio files of all three (you can listen here), and was happy to hear that they sound pretty good together.

Unfortunately I was unable to make arrangements in this key for flutes, clarinets, and oboes that sound as good as the bassoon and trombone versions, but there is no reason that those instruments can't be used when the parts are in range.

You can find a PDF with scores and parts for all three versions here. These arrangements can also be combined with my 2014 version for violin and viola duet.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

"And this shall be for music . . ."

One of my favorite songs in all of twentieth-century music is Vaughan Williams's setting of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Roadside Fire" from his Songs of Travel. Here it is sung so beautifully by tenor Gervase Elwes in 1919.


I have always thought of Robert Louis Stevenson's poetry to be inherently musical. And I know now that I am not alone! Here is listing of settings of his poems, which I know is not exhaustive, since I know of one setting that is not included. It was really exciting to see that Seymour Barab wrote a setting that was recorded by his friend Russel Oberlin:

Seymour Barab [b. 1921]. ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ for voice and piano. 2 vols. Boosey and Hawkes. Recorded in 1953 by Russell Oberlin on Counterpoint CPT 539 [LP] and in 2010 on remastered CD by Essential Media Group (ASIN: B0036VNVKG)

After spending so much time with A Child's Garden of Verses, and having been such good friends with Seymour Barab (oh why did we never talk about these?), I look forward to getting my hands on the score and my ears on a copy of the recording.
But I only recently learned that Robert Louis Stevenson was an amateur musician and composer himself!

This study by J.F.M. Russell lists Robert Louis Stevenson's musical activities and projects in historical order. It is enhanced with audio links and images. I'm planning to spend a bunch of time going through them, and I'm sharing them here so that other Robert Louis Stevenson "fans" can go through them too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Joseph Bologne's 1780 Opera The Anonymous Lover this Saturday!

From Jason Victor Serinus's article in yesterday's San Francisco Classical Voice:
History will be made on Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. PST when the Colburn School and LA Opera together present a free stream of the new critical edition of Joseph Bologne’s comic opera The Anonymous Lover (L’Amant anonyme). Not only will the performance be one of the very few modern productions of a 240-year-old opera by a mostly forgotten 18th-century Black composer, it will also present a unique opportunity to explore the potential of the streaming medium as a conduit for live opera in and beyond the COVID-19 era.

If you’ve never heard of Joseph Bologne (aka Boulogne) (1745-1799), whom King Louis XV granted the title Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, it is likely due to his origins as the son of an enslaved African woman and a wealthy French plantation owner. Bologne was born and raised on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. By the time he was 10, he began to receive an elite education in France, which included private lessons in music and fencing. Bologne rapidly blossomed into one of the most versatile and talented members of the aristocracy. Initially prized for his outstanding fencing and athletic abilities, he became a member of the Gendarmes de la Garde du Roi and was known as “the god of arms.” He was admitted to the Royal Academy as a professor and soon became a star of Parisian society.

Even before he had reached France, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges began violin studies with his father’s estate manager. As befitted the son of nobleman who was a patron of the arts and had works dedicated to him by the violinist Antonio Lolli and the composer Johann Stamitz, Bologne eventually took lessons from Jean-Marie Leclair and possibly Lolli. Both Lolli and François-Joseph Gossec dedicated works to him.

You can read the rest of the article here.

And here's a link to the LA Opera page about the opera and the streaming performance (which is free).

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Robertson Davies on the language of art

From a conversation between an apprentice artist and his teacher in What's Bred in the Bone, the second novel in The Cornish Trilogy:
"Your hatred is reserved for the moderns, as mine is for you?"

"Not at all. I do not hate them. The best of them are doing what honest painters have always done, which is to paint the inner vision, or to bring the inner vision to some outer subject. But in an earlier day the inner vision presented itself in a coherent language of mythological or religious terms, and now both mythology and religion are powerless to move the modern mind. So--the search for the inner vision must be direct. The artist solicits and implores something from the realm of what the psychoanalysts, who are the great magicians of our day, call the Unconscious, though it is actually the Most Conscious. And what they fish up--what the unconscious hangs on the end of the hook the artists drop into the great well in which art has its being--may be very fine, but they express it in a language more or less private. It is not the language of mythology or religion. And the great danger is that such private language is perilously easy to fake. Much easier to fake than the well-understood language of the past . . ."

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Haydn for Biden

A warm Sunday in November, Haydn Opus 20, No. 5, and an election victory to celebrate with good friends!

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Trombones and Babies Play Grieg's Ave Maris Stella

The ultimate in trombone and baby love!

A brand new song for kids to learn the months of the year!

A friend had trouble finding an appropriate song to teach her kids about the months of the year, so I wrote one.

You can listen to a computer-generated recording here. Here's an audio file with just the piano part, and here's a link to a PDF file in the IMSLP.

If anyone wants to make a video with kids, I would be happy (actually delighted) to post it here.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Florence Price and Langston Hugues Monologue for the Working Class

Performed by Justin Hopkins and Jeanne-Minette Cilliers



There’s a new wind a-blowin’ Down on Tobacco Road. There’s a new Hope a-growin’ For them folks by name o’ Joad.

There’s a new truth we’ll be knowin’ that will lift our heavy load. When we find out What the working class can do.

There’s a new day a-comin’ For the poor and unemployed, New tunes we’ll be hummin’ From our hearts so overjoyed.

As we march we’ll be a-drummin’ How our trouble’s been destroyed when we find out what the working class can do.

All day long I’ve labored All my whole life through Ask the boss man for a favor He says he “no can do.”

But when I unite with my neighbor we’ll make this old world new ‘Cause we know what the working class can do.

So let’s get together folks That labor with our hands. And let’s get together, folks, with brains that understand.

And let’s get together, folks, all across this land, And show ‘em what the working class can do.

After listening please make sure to visit Michael Cooper's blogpost about the song.

Friday, October 30, 2020

The JackTrip Foundation

This is the best news ever for musicians in isolation!

The JackTrip Foundation is a newly formed non-profit organization dedicated to advancing technologies that enable music collaboration over the Internet, and to facilitate the creation of music that transcends distance constraints. The Covid-19 pandemic has tragically closed down many musical activities around the world, devastating musicians and music organizations alike. Unlike many business functions, which have pivoted quickly to Internet collaboration tools, the time delay inherent in Internet transmissions have precluded musicians from being able to make a similar transition online.

The mission of the JackTrip Foundation is to make the performance of music over the Internet feasible and accessible to everyone. By utilizing existing and newly-developed technologies aimed at reducing latency, the Foundation plans to develop and operate a music collaboration cloud service which will allow musicians to rehearse, perform and collaborate synchronously over common Internet connections.

JackTrip is a free, open source program authored by Chris Chafe and Juan Pablo Caceres at Stanford University. Many musicians use JackTrip because it was made for professional-quality sound and low latency, because it works with existing hardware and does not require any financial investment, and because its developers and others have created a supportive community around it.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Motivic Development in "Naked City"

Michael and I have been watching (for the second time) the complete run of the "Naked City" television series that ran from 1958 until 1963. The first time we watched the series I was taken by the actors, the photography, and the story telling. I found Billy May's music attractive and wonderful, but I was paying attention to the whole rather than to the brilliant way he develops the opening five-pitch main musical motive from the first theme of the opening music in incidental music (unique to each episode) throughout the series. Here's the motive:


[Just an aside: I do not have absolute pitch, but I have listened to this so often that I did end up singing and notating it in the correct key!]



There are episodes where the orchestration is particularly inventive, and I notice William Loose's name attached to some of those episodes. The contractor, Jack Lee, hired the very best New York freelance musicians, resulting in exquisite playing. Clever adaptations of a great motive, beautifully and whimsically orchestrated, and played by great musicians. Who could ask for anything more in a a television series?

But there is more! Nelson Riddle's setting of the theme, and his further development of its opening motive during the later episodes of the series.

Watching this series is a wonderful (and deeply entertaining) lesson on what it is possible to do with five notes!

Here are the names with links to biographies of the composers, orchestrators, contractor, and conductors (with information on the internets) who are responsible for Naked City's extraordinary music:

Ed Forsyth
Jack Lee
Billy May
George Duning
Ned Washington
William Loose
Nelson Riddle
Van Cleave

Monday, October 26, 2020

Elgar Salut d'amour Arranged for Piano Quintet (by me!)

I just learned that my transcription of the Elgar Salut d'amour for piano quintet is now available! You can see it (or even order it) here.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Augustin Hadelich plays the Joseph Bologne (the Chevalier de Saint-George) Violin Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony

I was able to watch the performance last night, and am happy to let you know that we can watch the recording of the livestream concert here (it will be available until November 4).


The concert begins at the 17-minute mark (after a countdown) with the Ives Unanswered Question (which is so approprate for this time). The Bologne Concerto begins about five minutes later, and it is followed by the Stravinsky (which was written during the Spanish Flu pandemic).


The playing is great (and the cadenzas, which I imagine were written by Augustin Hadelich, are amazing), the programming is visionary, the commentary is enlighting and inspiring, and the generosity of the orchestra for making this public is extraordinary.

Friday, October 23, 2020

All of the things that belong to the day

You can find the music here and listen to a computer-generated audio file here. It is also available on this page of the IMSLP.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Cellist's Garden of Verses (with versions
for violin, for viola, and for double bass)

These six solo pieces are appropriate for young people and late-starters because they can be played in the first position (with the exception of one easy harmonic). You can find the music on this page of the IMSLP.

There are transcriptions there for for solo violin, solo viola, and solo double bass (five of the six pieces). Here is a lovely reading of "My Bed is a Boat."

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Schubert in the Stevenson

Has it only been six months since normal professional musical life has been put on hold? It feels like it has been far longer. Every covid day seems, in some ways, to be equal to a week. So much seems to happen so quickly when our communication happens in virtual time rather than in real time, yet as far as music is concerned, there is no way to really measure much of anything.

I believe I have been using my time well, but chain-writing was not the way I expected to be spending this year. Here's the music I have written and arranged since March:
Scarborough Fair for solo viola (March 17, 2020) 
Saprophyte I (String Quartet) March 18, 2020 
Transcription for quartet (string, viola, clarinet) of J.S. Bach's Adagio BWV 1018 
Transcription of the last movement of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony for String Sextet (March 29, 2020) 
Birthday Piece Number 12 (Viola d’amore and piano) April 17, 2020 
Eleven Miniature Studies for Violin Solo (solo violin) May 2, 2020 
Quo Vadis for Euphonium and Woodwind Quintet (May 17, 2020) (forthcoming video premiere) 
A Tunes: Capricious Pieces for Beginner Violinists (May 24, 2020) (forthcoming in 2021 from Mel Bay) 
Impressions (voice and piano) June 11, 2021 
The Gift of the Condor (chamber orchestra, narrator, kid violinist) June 23, 2020 (forthcoming video premiere, forthcoming publication) 
Ladder of Escape for Four Bassoons (bassoon quartet) July 26, 2020 
Two Places in Illinois (piano solo) August 14, 2020 (forthcoming video premiere and concert premiere in 2021) 
Transcription of Robert Schumann's "Kinderscenen" for violin and cello (September 18, 2020) 
Tzadik Katamar (Louis Lewandowski) arrangement for two violas or two violins (September 20, 2020)
In an Old House in Paris (modular duet) September 26, 2020 
Two Fragments of Fragments from Jubilate (two voices) September 30, 2020 
Ferdinand (solo viola or solo cello) October 4, 2020 
Ferdinand II (solo euphonium or solo cello) October 8, 2020 
A Cellist’s Garden of Verses (solo cello, with versions for solo violin, solo viola and solo bass) October 14, 2020

Today I finished a set of six pieces for novice cellists (or violinists, or violists, or bassists), and that set is the reason for the title of this post.

I have always loved Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses. It was my introduction to poetry. While going through the larger work (and it is a large collection of poems) I encountered poems that were not in my illustrated childhood anthology. The music in "Windy Nights" particularly caught my ear as being a little like Schubert's Erlkönig:

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.

and "Singing" seems to have "Der Leierman" from Schubert's Wintereise as a counterpoint to its phrases.
Of speckled eggs the birdie sings
And nests among the trees;
The sailor sings of ropes and things
In ships upon the seas.
The children sing in far Japan,
The children sing in Spain;
The organ with the organ man
Is singing in the rain.


UPDATE: While looking through more poems by Stevenson (including his Songs of Travel) for the next project in my chain, I found that he subtitled "The Vagabond" "To an air of Schubert." The hard part for me about doing any setting of poems from the Songs of Travel is trying not to hear the Vaughan Williams in them!

Friday, October 09, 2020

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Walt Disney's 1938 Take on Ferdinand, and more . . .

I still have Ferdinand on the brain, and am getting to work on Ferdinand II, which is going to be for solo euphonium. It will "illustrate" Ferdinand's encounter with the bee, his discovery by the men with funny hats, his cart trip to Madrid, the parade and entrance into the ring, and his return to his cork tree.

I appreciate that the Disney animators kept the integrity of the cork tree. This is the drawing I made for the cover of my Ferdinand piece for solo cello or solo viola, which is available on this page of the IMSLP. For most of my life this is the way I thought that this was how we got corks for wine bottles. Seriously.



I also learned here that the book was banned by Franco and by Hitler (which comes as no surprise), and that Munro Leaf wrote the story so his friend Robert Lawson would have something fun to illustrate (also no surprise).

Monday, October 05, 2020

Ferdinand

[How I distract myself from the news of the day, hour, and minute . . .]

Thursday, October 01, 2020

That's What She Said: Unaccompanied Cello Music Written by Women

What an honor it is to have my work included in The Cello Museum's recent post by Erica Lessie in her series about music for solo cello by women with the great title "That's What She Said."

Antiphonal Vocal Duet!


As a request from a singer who reads this blog, I have written a couple of vocal duets (without accompaniment) for people to sing together over the internet. Through a search for antiphonal poetry, I found my way to Christopher Smart (1722-1771), and his Jubilate Agno, which you can read in (fragemented) full here.

What a life he had!

I chose two sections of the poem to set as a musical dialog for two voices. They sound best if sung by a soprano or mezzo voice on top, and a tenor or baritone voice on the bottom, but they could just as easily be sung with voices in the same octave. The main thing is that they can be used as a way to connect musically for friends who are otherwise unable to do so.

For a person with rudimentary video-editing skills (and rudimentary video-editing software), it is not hard at all to make a split-screen video "performance" when you have a antiphonal piece, because you don't need to do anything elaborate to synchronize the parts. Starting both parts at the same time is really enough.

You can find the music on this page of the IMSLP.

I am, of course, not the first person to set parts of this poem as music. After I finished my work, I looked around, and found that Benjamin Britten had set one of the fragements I chose. It's an obvious musical choice, I suppose, since it is the passage about instrumental sounds. I was happy to see that Britten also adjusted the lines of poetry to fit his needs, and he eliminated the lines that I used as a "refrain." Interesting.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Fantastic Performance of my Trio for Violin, Viola, and Piano



Thank you to pianist Sarah Wang, violist Martina Weidner, and violinist Nora Markowski-Block!

I love everything about this performance, including the video production. You make it sound even better than in did in my wildest inner-ear dreams!

"In an Old House in Paris" from my house in Charleston

Saturday, September 26, 2020

In an Old House in Paris: a piece for two musicians to play together over the internet



This is an antiphonal piece that follows the rhythms found in the text of Madeline, a children’s book written in 1939 by Ludwig Bemelmans. The words that correspond to the musical phrases can be found in the book, which can be found in many libraries and bookstores.

During this time of social distancing, musicians have been looking for ways to play together by way of video communication. Truly synchronous two-way communication is not yet possible, so this piece explores the horizontal musical communication that is operative in antiphonal music.

I have found that the piece works better on a direct communication platform like FaceTime than it does on a conference-based platform like Zoom.

I have made modular settings so that this piece can be played by two violins, two clarinets, violin and clarinet, two violas, viola and guitar, oboe and guitar, flute and guitar, violin and guitar, violin and viola, viola and cello, oboe and viola, flute and viola, bassoon and cello, bassoon and viola, two cellos, and two bassoons.

I wrote this piece so that musicians can have the pleasure of communicating with one another in real time, which is a necessity in times of social isolation. In the time that follows the Covid-19 pandemic (whenever that may be), this piece could be performed in a way that injects freedom in the sections marked “allow for random cacophony.”.

This music is on this page of the IMSLP.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A story about music you may not have read

This brilliant short story by Julio Ramón Ribeyro may be fiction, but it rings true. So I'm sharing a link to it here.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Singing Together Over Zoom

This past weekend I had had the pleasure of singing "happy birthday" to our one-year-old granddaughter in California along with her other grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins elsewhere in Illinois as well as in Boston. I believe there were two choruses. Michael and I followed someone somewhere, and eventually each chorus came to an end.

It was a glorious birthday party!

We also had Friday night and Saturday morning services for the High Holy Days via Zoom, where Michael and I, being the instrumentalists, are the ones responsible for leading the congregational singing. When doing this we have to be careful NOT to follow anyone who is singing, even if they seem to be ahead of us (yes, there are people who sing ahead even under non-Zoom circumstances).

I came to the realization that if we, as the instrumentalists, pause at the end of every phrase in order to let all the phrases of all the congregants finish (thus ending phrases at the same time), we can all begin the next phrase with a feeling of togetherness. During the pauses between phrases, I started imagining the great cathedrals of Europe, with their vaulted ceilings and thunderous echoes. The musicians who worked in those vaunted establishments during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance also needed to manage physical time lags.

The antiphonal part of the Rosh Hashanah morning service is the Shofar service. Hearing the "Takia" caller and the resulting Shofar blasts was a remarkable experience through Zoom. That such an ancient exchange could be accomplished across several states and time zones boggles the mind.

I wonder if it might be possible to write a piece of antiphonal music that could intentionally be played together over Zoom. Allowances would need to be made for a wide variety of time lags, and there would have to be a way to set each microphone to allow for different dynamics. A great amount of indeterminacy would have to be written into the piece.

I don't know if it is something I could do, but I would certainly be interested to see what kinds of new chamber music emerge from this time of social distancing.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Kinderscenen: the completion of a project

The thirteen short movements that make up Robert Schumann’s Kinderscenen were a musical response to a comment Clara Schumann made in 1838 about her husband being like a child.

His original title, Leichte Stücke, suggests that the pieces are easy, though when played at the metronome markings indicated in the Breitkopf and Härtel edition, they are very challenging.  I would venture that the title of the collection is a comment on the gentle and melodic nature of the music and the straightforward way that the pieces are organized rather than the technical abilities of their intended audience of pianists. 

This transcription for violin and cello is also not easy, and these pieces would be impossible to play on bowed string instruments at the tempo indications in the original edition. 

Clara Schumann’s 1880 edition of her husband’s complete works omits metronome markings entirely. I imagine that she did not approve of the fast tempos in the 1845 edition, so I have left the tempo choices in this transcription to the musicians who are playing. There are places marked ritardando that do not have corresponding a tempo markings. I imagine that Robert Schumann wanted to allow for freedom with tempo.

Robert Schumann added the titles for the individual pieces after all the pieces in the set were finished. The titles are indications of character, rendering usual Italian tempo indications unnecessary.


You can find the score and parts under the "transcription" tab on this page of the IMSLP.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Träumerei for Violin and Cello (the beginning of a project)

A friend asked me to make this arrangement to play at a memorial service. I enjoyed working on it so much that I plan to arrange all thirteen pieces of Robert Schumann's Kinderscenen for violin and cello. I will put the whole set in the IMSLP when I'm finished, but I thought I'd share Träumerei now.

Unforgettable Banana Bread

 I'm sharing this recipe here so that I don't forget what I did yesterday while making (up) a recipe for banana bread!


WET

6 over-ripe bananas
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

DRY

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant expresso
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In one large bowl mash the bananas, and then add the rest of the wet ingredients. In another bowl combine the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix well.

Pour into two greased loaf pans, and bake for an hour.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mainly Two World Tour: United States

What an honor it is to have one of my pieces, Sweet Gum, which is part of Autumn Leaves included in Mainly Two's virtual world tour!

Here's the program:

Dusty Miller (Bluegrass), arr. Edward Huws Jones

Take The A Train by Billy Strayhorn, arr. unknown

Yaquis Deer Dance (Native American traditional), trans. Clint Goss, arr. Mainly Two

Billie’s Song by Valerie Capers, arr. Mainly Two

Sweet Gum by Elaine Fine

Little Maggie (Old-time), arr. Edward Huws Jones



(Note to Michael: we need to play Billie's Song.)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Masks for Oboists and Clarinetists!

Just spreading the love here. This oboist is making and selling masks for wind players:



You can find her Etsy store here.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

More Confessions of a Former CD Reviewer

During the past decade or so I have written the occasional post about my relationship to recordings. I cut many of my musical teeth on a few dozen, and spent my young adult life exploring more music by way of recordings. I was an avid radio listener, and then became a "classical music director" of a college radio station, where I got to expand my horizons far and wide. Then I started writing CD reviews, and was charged with explaining the virtues and faults I found in them. After thirteen years of writing at least fifty reviews a year, and acquiring more recordings than I could hold in both my office and house, I stopped writing for the magazine. My relationship to the CD as an "object" became a less-than-loving one, and I took a good long break.

I have seriously only purcased half a dozen CDs in the past six years (I stopped writing reviews in 2014). I rarely listen to CDs for pleasure, unless I'm driving in the car (our car is old enough to have a CD player built in) and sharing the experience with Michael.

After a diet of listening mostly to live music for a year or two, I eventually was able to find some enjoyment in listening to recordings I found on YouTube. The pleasure of listening without having to "report" on what you hear is highly underrated.

A few weeks ago Michael ordered a copy of Augustin Hadelich's new "Bohemian Tales" recording. It has a lot of Dvorak: the Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony conducted by Jakub Hruša, Songs My Mother Taught Me, in an arragement by Hadelich and Charles Owen (the pianist on this recording), Fritz Kreisler's arrangement of the Humoresque, and the fourth Romantic Piece from the Opus 75 set. They also play the Janáček Violin Sonata, and Josef Suk's Four Pieces, Opus 17.

Michael and I listened to the Dvorak Concerto in the car, and I was excited to spend some of the trip back and forth to New Jersey that we took Thursday and Friday (bringing Michael's mother to Illinois to live) listening to more of the CD with him, but, alas, the minivan we rented did not have a CD player.

Since Michael bought the CD for me, I feel guilty about keeping the pleasure that it affords all to myself. But I have dipped in. A few times. And I intend to listen to it again and again, because the music-making is so honest and so beautifully thought out. The phrases are always tasteful, but always brought to their musical extreme: how rhythmic a hemiola can be, how agitated a "whisper" can be, how long and sustained a phrase can be, and how thoughtful and personal. And everything is about the music: what it can express, and how it can meet the emotional needs of the person listening.

My friend Danny Morganstern told me long ago that when you listen to a recording, you are listening to a person's best playing. But this CD goes beyond merely someone's best playing. This CD is satisfying on more levels than (just) the music making.

Augustin wrote the notes himself. They are brilliant notes that get right to the functional and emotional core of the music. And the notes are in both German and English. I imagine that he wrote them in both languages. The recording quality is extraordinary. It allows us to hear all the voices of his fantastic violin (the one that Szeryng used to make many of his great recordings), and to experience the Concerto differently from the usual soloist vs. orchestra approach. Here Augustin interacts with all the voices in the orchestra, weaving in and around, dancing with one instrument, and then another. When listening to this recording I feel like I am hearing the music exactly the way Dvorak heard it in his head while writing.

Dvorak certainly knew some great violinists, but I think that if Augustin Hadelich were alive during his lifetime, Augustin would have been his favorite violinist.

As I have said before, I am grateful to live in the same lifetime as Augustin Hadelich.

This morning I thought that it would be handy to use iTunes to sync this CD to my phone. I used to do that sort of thing when I had an ipod (but that was back when I was writing reviews, more than six years ago).

I loaded the CD into iTunes, and was pleased and impressed that all the tracks on the CD were appropriately named and numbered, but I could not figure out how to sync the music to my phone. I followed all the procedures, but no phone icon ever popped up to allows some sort of sync. I tried using every possible connector, but no soap.

I finally loaded the music on the CD into Dropbox, so I now can listen to it anytime and anywhere.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Dramatic Reading, Musical Phrasing, and the Camera Obscura



I have spent the past several days practicing exercises and etudes that address string crossings. Practicing exercises like these helps clear my mind, because I can pay attention to getting from point A to point B (sometimes literally) clearly and cleanly, and I can pay exclusive attention to my right hand and my left hand without thinking much about anything musically sophisticated. The desired outcome of this kind of practice is, of course, to not have to think that much about technique while playing musical phrases that involve things like string crossings.

Also, during the past few days, Michael and I have read a couple of Sophocles plays out loud, in preparation for a Theater of War Event this Wednesday.

Sight-reading plays is a lot of fun. I would often find myself reading the lines very quickly in my head before reading them out loud, and could then give the kind of nuance that the phrase needed. I have never been aware of doing this kind of thing when reading poetry or prose aloud. A play provides the perfect setting for this kind of experience because silence is part of the rhythm of dialogue.

This morning I was working on the Prelude of the Bach E major Partita, and, drawing upon the spoils of my string-crossing practice, I found that I would "see" phrases physically, and then apply the bow to make lines go where I wanted them to go. It was kind of like the way a camera obscura is used for drawing.

The camera obscura projects an upside-down image on a screen or a piece of paper, and, because all a person needs to do is trace the projected image with a writing instrument, it is possible to have an extremely confident line on the page. This morning I felt like my bow was unobstructed by concerns, and my left hand, after spending hours and decades on this music, somehow had the "space" to "read ahead" and be present for my bow. I had the feeling of confidence that I get when I am tracing a clear image onto paper (with a high-quality pencil).

It was a wonderful feeling.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Voting

Copied from a Facebook post:

Good advice for people who feel unsafe about voting in person but now fear the USPS will be unable to deliver a “mail-in” ballot in a timely fashion.

There is a way around it:

1. Request a mail-in ballot.
2. Do not mail it.
3. Google your supervisor of elections to see where you can drop off your mail-in ballot. Its usually NOT THE POLLING PLACE. All states allow this!

Here is what you're accomplishing by doing this:

1. Your ballot gets in on time no matter what happens to the USPS.
2. You don't have to worry about standing in long lines and risking infection. You're just stopping by to drop it off.
3. You still voted! Hooray!

Also, when you drop it off, find out how to track it online to make sure it is verified. California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have systems that can track your ballot just like tracking a package from Amazon.

All CA vote centers (which are open for weeks to a month before election day) have ballot drop-off boxes too! Many government buildings have them as well, so there's no need to wait until election day when it's crowded to drop them off. The list of drop-off sites is always posted on each county's voter info website.

***This is very important and I would appreciate everyone who sees this to copy it on their page. (Press and hold until the copy option pops up)***