Sunday, June 25, 2023

Paper Organ!

Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann both probably loved E.T.A. Hoffmann's novel Kater Murr, and I can certainly understand why. Michael and I have just started the second part of the novel, and so far Hoffmann's characters have discussed the lute, the tromba marina, the viola d'amore, and the paper organ.

The paper organ in the novel is said to resemble an instrument in the Imperial Court of Art in Vienna made by Eugenius Casparini (1623-1706).

Imagine my surprise when I did a quick search for "paper organ" and found that people can make organs that actually work out of paper and cardboard.

And while we are on the subject, why not learn about making "conventional" organ pipes from paper:

And then there's a paper ukulele.

If you haven't done so already, be sure to go to Aliaksei Zholner's YouTube channel and explore.

See you there!

Friday, June 23, 2023

Telemann's Tafelmusik Sonata à 4 in a String Orchestra Transcription

Like his slightly younger friends George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach (both born in 1685), Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) enhanced his native German style of writing with contemporary French and Italian styles. His Musique de Table or Tafelmusik, one of the last examples of music to be played played at court feasts was published in 1733.

Tafelmusik is a collection of eighteen pieces divided into three sets of six. The Sonata à 4, TWV 43:d1 is the second piece in the second set. It was written for two transverse flutes, a solo alto recorder (or a solo bassoon), and continuo.
I have loved this piece since I first played it as a flutist nearly forty years ago (the first concert I ever played as a student at Juilliard). I think that it is one of Telemann's best pieces. You can listen to a recording of this arrangement here.

And you can find the score and a set of parts on this page of the IMSLP.

You can also hear a very nice recording by Musica Amphion of the original here:

First Movement
Second Movement
Third Movement
Fourth Movement

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Of bow arms and toilet tanks

My obsession with improving my bow arm continues. And Casorti (mentioned and linked to in a post I made last week) has revealed a secret to me, which I will share with you.
That sentence about keeping the arm lower than the stick is a little bit different from the advice he gives in the beginning of the book, where he says, in item number six, to keep the elbow below the height of the stick:
This thought has been, as they say, a game changer for me. My arm, which is shaped like a stick when fully extended, is easy to see with my eyes, and also easy to "see" with my inner vision, so my attention can get to it immediately. My elbow, being a joint that is often in motion, feels farther away: it takes more of my visual imagination to figure out where it is in space, so adjusting it can come too late for a given musical "situation."

And then I started to think about the inside of an old-school toilet tank.

If the tightness or looseness of the screw that attaches the floating ball mechanism to the tank is incorrect, making the angle of the "stick" a little too acute or obtuse, the toilet runs. If it is correct, allowing the stick that attaches to the ball to let it float to the best place, it doesn't run. I have somehow been able to connect this image with my bow arm very quickly, and make corrections mid stroke. Just keeping my mind in the toilet, I guess.

Friday, June 09, 2023

"Windy Nights" and "I am also fond of lonely islands" on the 2024 Syllabus!

I am very proud to share that two of my recent solo viola pieces are included in the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) syllabus for 2024.
Both pieces are available in the IMSLP.

This is my quest . . .

Some people want fame, some people want money, but what I want is to have a bow arm that can work like David Oistrakh's bow arm. I'm willing (and eager) to put in the necessary time and discipline, because I know it will be worth it. Even if I don't make it to the full Oistrakh, a little improvement is enough for me.

My latest daily companion is Casorti, who wrote a great book of exercises back in 1909 to improve the bow arm. I found a copy in the IMSLP. You can find it here.

Monday, June 05, 2023

New Summer Strings Arrangements for 2023

Our local Summer String orchestra has "road tested" some new arrangements, which I am happy to share (gratis) with people who need music to play with community groups or with summer string camps for kids.

If you would like to have the music for any of these pieces or access to a library of (gasp) more than 160 original arrangements for string orchestra that all include a special violin 2b part for beginning violinists (violinists to-be), please send me an email message (my email address is over in the "profile" part of the sidebar), and I will send you a link to the folder.

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Rye update . . .

I have now settled into making the best Ryvita replacement ever, and am ready to share. I enjoy the act of making this so much that I make one loaf at a time, using sourdough starter that I keep in the fridge and feed every few days. Michael prefers other breads, so I can adjust this bread to have the taste and texture I prefer.

Here's what I do:

I soak one cup rye berries in a mason jar filled with water and fitted with a screen. After an overnight soak I rinse and drain the rye berries, wrap the mason jar in a clean dishtowel, and let the berries just begin to sprout, rinsing and draining once or twice a day.

(Some organic rye berries that I got from an Amish supermarket on a Friday morning started to sprout by Sunday morning.)

Next, I cover the sprouted berries with water and grind them up with an immersion blender until they are very smooth. I pour all but three-quarters of cup or so into a big bowl. I add a cup of my sourdough starter from the fridge to the newly-pulverized berry and water mixture, and put the remaining three-quarters of a cup of ground-up fresh berries into my starter jar, which I put back in the fridge.

I add a little under two teaspoons of salt to the mixture of sourdough starter and freshly ground berries in the big bowl, and then I stir in one cup of high protein (winter wheat) flour, and one cup of dark rye flour.

I mix it all up, put a plastic lid on the bowl, and let it sit in a warm place all day, checking it from time to time to see if it needs some mixing. If it does, I mix it around with a spatula.

Before going to bed I transfer the dough into a loaf pan, cover it, and pop it in the fridge.

I bake it in the morning at 350 degress for an hour. Then I take it out of the pan and let it cool. Then I let it sit for a day or so before slicing it into thin slices, putting it a freezer bag, and putting it in the freezer (not waiting results in bread that has uneven moisture).

Every few days I take half a loaf or so out of the freezer, put the slices on a half sheet pan, and toast those slices at 350 for about 20 minutes (less or more depending on the thickness of the slices), and then I store the resulting crunchy, chewy, nutty, tasty slices in a covered container, where they would last for at least a week if I didn't eat them all up first.

When the supply looks low, I measure out a cup of rye berries to soak and sprout again.

If bread is the staff of life, this process gives my life a wonderful rhythm, and loaves that sing (literally--like French bread they crackle and pop when they come out of the oven).

Nocturne for String Quartet or Viola Quartet

I wrote a piece last week in honor of my almost-93-year-old father, who spends the greater part of his days sleeping. Now that the weather is warm, he spends much of his time happily napping on the deck, in the sun. I was going to call this piece "my father, sleeping," but decided to call it Nocturne, because it turned out to be more of a night piece than a nap-in-the-sun piece. And I also made a transcription of it for viola quartet, because the two upper parts sound nice on the viola (I could say, "doesn't everything?" but I would not be speaking honestly).

You can listen to the string quartet version here, and the viola quartet version here. And you can find the score and parts for both versions on this page of the IMSLP.