Saturday, September 30, 2023

Meadowmount film from the early 1960s

Back in 2015 I made a post about a U.S. State Department film about Meadowmount that was shot in the early 1960s. I was able to identify a couple of the musicians in the film, and hoped that there might be musicians around who could identify more.

I was thrilled to wake up today to an email message from Sydney Manowitz, the retired concertmaster of the former Southern Sinfonia (of New Zealand) that has since been renamed the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, providing a great deal of further identification.

By the way, and speaking of things New Zealand, Michael and I have been reading stories by the fantastic New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield, who I just learned was a cellist.

If you happened to be around Meadowmount (or Curtis or Juilliard) during the first decades of the 1960s, please have a look at the film (by way the link above), and see if you recognize yourself or some old friends. And if you do, please do leave a comment.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Standing Desk

Michael introduced me to a new study suggesting that sitting for ten hours a day could increase the risk of dementia. After a little hemming and hawing, I thought it might be interesting to explore the idea of using a standing desk.

Fortunately for me a standing desk doesn't need much in the way of height, so I used a modular shelf (that I already had), and propped my computer onto a nifty Glenmorangie box (too nifty a box to ever throw away, in my opinion, and happens to add exactly the right amout of height).

The light is better up here by the window, and I can use a music stand to prop up whatever I happen to be working on.

I also have better head and neck posture, and seem to have an improved attention span. And if I am working on music, I can allow my body to move (what a novel idea).

When I'm finished with my work, I can sit down to take a break.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Enough Is

My resolution for 5784 (this Jewish new year) is simply to remind myself every day (and every once in a while during every day) that enough is.

And that is enough. Happy new year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Musical Assumptions Posts from Years Past as PDF Files

Now that I have close to twenty years of blog posts here, and with an eye on what the next twenty years might bring (to both the blog format and to me), I have started making yearly digests in PDF form so that everything I have written here doesn't simply disappear into a puff of air.

I toyed with the idea of organizing things into book form and presenting it to a publisher, but I decided not to. I'm not interested in making money (for myself or for a publishing company) from the things I have written in my blog, and I'm certainly not interested in taking it down (which I would probably have to do) after signing a contract that would give all the rights to what I have written in it to a publisher.

In order to keep things in "digestable" chunks, I have left the comments out of the digests. I have also eliminated recipes, posts that have to do with things fully non-musical, and almost all of the pictures. I have not included posts that only reference other posts and websites (many that no longer exist), and have cleaned things up so that everything looks uniform. The posts that I have left off the PDF digest are still accessible by way of the sidebar. Once I finish the digests I will get around to improving the labels (in case you really want to find a recipe or something).

The digest for every year reads from January to December, pretty much in order (in contrast to the way blogs read backwards, with the most recent posts at the top). The files are between 200K and 1000K. I have removed the individual dates of each post, but the pages are all numbered.

Posts from 2005
Posts from 2006
Posts from 2007
Posts from 2008
Posts from 2009
Posts from 2010
Posts from 2011
Posts from 2012
Posts from 2013
Posts from 2014
Posts from 2015
Posts from 2106
Posts from 2017
Posts from 2018
Posts from 2019
Posts from 2020
Posts from 2021
Posts from 2022

Friday, September 15, 2023

Fanfare for Orchestra for Fall

I wrote a piece for four trombones around twenty years ago, and one of the projects I took on in 2020 was to orchestrate it. Seesaw published the trombone piece in 2003, and Subito (which acquired the Seesaw catalog) put my expanded and orchestrated version in their catalog.

The video images are from that beautiful fall of 2020 when all was quiet, and many of us took to walking in the woods to find some sanity.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Internet, the Cafeteria, the Street, and Me

I remember so very clearly when access to the Internet was something that people connected with academic institutions could use. I remember exchanging emails with my mother from my portal at a university radio station and her portal at Mass Art. I remember the first real-time "chat" that I had from three different computers on campus (with Michael and with our friend Norman who now lives in Norway). I remember user groups where I found that there were thousands of people who shared my interests.

I enjoyed lively conversations with people about music and viola playing, and I found a great many people I would otherwise have no access to at "play." I had meaningful email correspondences with many people I met through those user groups.

Once we were able to connect to the internet at home, I started participating in the newly-created blogosphere. The blogosphere was really lively, and it allowed for a very special and meaningful kind of connection. Writing in the blogosphere remained available to anyone to read, just like a website. The way blogs were set up allowed me to post an organized catalog of music I had written, and provide links to the email address of the publisher I worked with (Subito), the WorldCat (where pieces of mine in libraries could be borrowed via interlibrary loan) and the Werner Icking Music Archive, where I shared my arrangements. I was early to the musical blogosphere, and the title "Thematic Catalog" hadn't been taken yet.

I hoped that people interested in music might search for my (accessible in the WIMA for free) arrangement of the Pachelbel Canon and stay to explore the rest of the music.
People certainly love the Pachelbel Canon. I don't know how many people "stayed" to explore some of my own (non-transcription) music, and I guess I never will. I have, however, made friends with musicians everywhere through this catalog.

I was an avid user of the Werner Icking Music Archive, and I contributed many transcriptions in those early years. The recorder player who ran the archive asked me if I would like to make my own music available in the WIMA, and I jumped at the chance. At that point I had around eighty pieces of music published. After my publisher's death (it was Seesaw) its inventory was sold to Subito, and my music, along with the other music in the acquisition was not made available for purchase for what seemed like a very long time.

Eventually the WIMA became too big for one person to maintain, and it was absorbed into a public domain library for choral music. These two public domain libraries became the IMSLP, which has grown into an absolutely indispensable international resource for musicians, scholars, librarians, students, and performing organizations. I still keep most of the music I write there. Here's the IMSLP page for my music.

I mostly use Facebook to let people know about the music that I have posted in the IMSLP, and I do my best in Facebook instrumental groups to respond to queries for music for a specific combination of instruments. I appreciate having the ability to do this. Sometimes I post links to these blog posts there.

My early experiences with Facebook reminded me of going to the cafeteria at Juilliard when taking a break from practicing. Everybody I knew (from school and from elsewhere in my past) seemed to be on Facebook.  Practicing musicians who emerge from the captivity of a practice room seem to have great social needs when they are let out. We work for hours and hours on the art of communicating musical phrases, and sometimes we achieve the joy of having them flow successfully. but that success falls only on our ears, and then it disappears into the ether.

Even the most introverted musicians need, at some point, other people to play for or with or to talk with. 

Why do we do this thing anyway? Isn't it for making connections with our fellow humans? When I was at Juilliard I was starved for people to play with. It was in the cafeteria that those connections were made.

There used to be a separation between what we call "real life" and what we used to think of as "virtual life" (or, as a friend put it "sidebar life"). But in recent years the "real" and the "virtual" have mixed together. During the year or so of isolation from live music that we experienced due to the pandemic, the "virtual" became the "real." For me the time between March of 2020 and March of 2022 was an incredibly creative time. I wrote a lot of music, really learned to play the violin like a violinist rather than like a violist, and found that I did have real connections with people through the internet. My virtual life became mixed with my real life too.

And then we were let out into the world, and "real life" was presented to us again.

Using Facebook is now (at least for me) like walking along a city street filled with billboards and flashing signs advertizing everything that I didn't know I might need. (Who knew that a nail clipper could work as a wire stripper, or that the little hole in it could bend a piece of metal wire into any shape you desire? And what is wrong with the way I eat and the way I dress?) To further distract from the social experience I crave when I take a break from practicing or working, I see photographs and videos of people I do and don’t know in beautiful places, cooking beautiful food, and having great success in their lives. I also see photographs from my "real life" friends that I enjoy. My emotions are all over the place: overstimulation, happiness for my friends, and a sense that that life I lead in "real life" is rather dull (which it really isn't: I have a great life).

Because I have this blog as a place to express myself, I do not post very much on Facebook. And more and more I restrict my participation to commenting and occasionally linking to blog posts that I have written.

I'm so grateful to have this "place" to play.

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Guitarist Yamandu Costa

Yamandu Costa is a household name in Brazil, and he is very well known in Europe, but the concert Michael and I heard him play today was one of only two performances this year for him in the United States.

We feel extremely fortunate to have heard him play at the Ellnora Festival, a guitar festival held every other September at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, which is an hour's drive from our house.

Hearing Yamandu Costa was like a trip to another world: a world of musical expression that stretches the imagination. His instrument is the guitar, but in his hands the guitar is enormous. It holds the whole world of emotion, of energy, of generosity, of virtuosity, of lyricism, and of an expression of love for everything that is Brazil. And everything that is human.

If you get the opportunity to hear him play a concert, go to the concert. I'm so glad we did. I'm also glad that I was able to take this nice portrait of him afterwards.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Nicolas Slonimsky on Johnny Carson in 1986

Make sure to watch him play at the end . . .

Sunday, September 03, 2023

New York City Ballet Orchestra petition for fair wages

I normally don't share petitions here, but this one from NYC Local 802 that demands fair wages and benefits for the people who play night after night in the New York City Ballet Orchestra is really important. This article in Allegro, the magazine of Local 802, explains the situation:
We’re outraged to report that the musicians of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, whose contract expired August 31, are not being offered the wages and healthcare they deserve and are instead being asked to make financial concessions once again.

These musicians bring the magic of live music to the most celebrated dancers, night after night. They are cultural ambassadors who help make New York City the artistic capital of the world.

During the pandemic, ballet management didn’t pay its musicians for over a year, from June 2020 to September 2021. Then, management imposed a 15 percent wage cut on the orchestra, at the musicians’ most vulnerable moment. During this same time period, the NYC Ballet had an endowment that was worth $263 million.

The ballet’s fundraising efforts have been robust and ticket sales have now exceeded 100 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The ballet even received more than $10 million in government support during the pandemic. A fair proposal to musicians would cost only a fraction of the ballet’s operating budget. Yet ballet management refuses to be transparent with financial information to justify its insulting offer to musicians.

To put it bluntly: ballet orchestra musicians are already being paid 9.3 percent less than in 2019. With more than 15 percent inflation, their purchasing power is 23 percent less than in 2019. Musicians and their families have suffered tremendous hardship as a result of this double hit of staggering inflation and the substantial pay cut that management imposed.

We urge the ballet to do the right thing and offer a fair proposal to its musicians that makes up for the sacrifices they were forced to endure during the pandemic — as well as inflation. We’ll do everything in our power to assist the musicians in their fight for the dignity and respect they deserve.
(Don't forget to uncheck the box if you don't want to get follow-up email messages.)