Monday, October 31, 2011

Nightmare On My Street

(I'm so glad I found this when I did.)
This Halloween night, I give you:
Der Erlkönig
performed by Anderson and Roe
set in a (haunted) Steinway factory.

HANDS DOWN the best "classical music"-video I've ever seen.
Ooh, I've got the shivers!

This comes from their soon-to-be-released album on the Steinway label - check it out.
(via collabpianoblog)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pioneer To The Falls

My (current) favorite MUSA publication: THE INGALLS WILDER FAMILY SONGBOOK.

Growing up in Minnesota, I claimed Laura Ingalls Wilder as one of us.  You know when she takes maple sugar and pours it in shapes on the snow and it freezes into candy?  That is a Minnesota Elementary School Staple. 
In any case, this book finds all of the references she makes to specific musical pieces throughout all the books - and it tracks them down - and it assembles them in one place.  127 songs! from children's songs to theater songs to parlor songs.

I was already predisposed to like MUSA - a musicological publication dedicated to publishing hard-to-find works from every cross-section of American music? - but add in this little interdisciplinary twist and now I'm practically ready to start an Official Fanclub.

It's $240 on Amazon, but GoogleBooks has your Ingalls Wilder fix.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Take It All Away

The Strauss-man used to live in this wedding cake.  I mean: house!  He used to live in this house.  ("Villa" if we're being pedantic.)

A wonderful flickr stream with pictures of the inside.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Don't Make Fun Of Daddy's Voice

Yesterday I discovered (well - "discovered") a poem
From the 14th century
In Middle English
Satirizing Guidonian notation.

It is my hero.

Let me pique your interest:

Un-comly in cloystre. i coure ful of care
I loke as a lurdeyn. and listne til my lare,
The song of the cesolfa. dos me syken sare,
And sitte stotiand on a song. a moneth and mare.
I ga gowlende a-bowte. al so dos a goke.

[Uncomely in cloister I cower full of care,
I look like a lout, and listen to my lesson;
The song of the C Sol Fa causes me to sigh sore,
And I sit stuttering o'er a song a month and more.
I go staring about like a gawky.]

NO WAIT this post isn't over yet!
If you would like to read the rest of the poem (plus a translation) about our new friend Walter (who has trouble singing on sight), you should click on this link - which will take you to a twenty-first century scan of a nineteenth century printing of the fourteenth century poem included in a publication called The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 27. taDA! All of the Musica Practica students are pleased by this transhistorical urge to complain about music theory.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brush Your Teeth / Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch

Of all the things he could possibly shill for, Frank Zappa chose the American Dental Association.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCMENT 1981-82 -- but still relevant today, ladies and gents!

Mm, yes. Raffi agrees.

(via openculture)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

So Many Roads

Yesterday I stumbled across a website called The Magic Victrola.
Obviously I clicked through.

As it turns out, the site hosts an online book in eight parts by Sunnie Day. Aside from the fact that it's about a time-machine Victrola leading to a 1920s incarnation of George Clooney (what more do you really need), it's also blog-worthy thanks to the medium: because this is an online book, Day is able to insert picture slideshows of relevant images and embed youtube videos of the songs that she writes about directly into her prose.

On some level, this is becoming de rigeur for major print books about music: Alex Ross' (non-fiction) The Rest is Noise and Listen to This have a companion website featuring snippets of the music he describes; and Wesley Stace's novel Charles Jessold Considered as a Murderer refers readers to the author's website - which leads to other informational sites including the Charles Jessold homepage. Academics have also been getting in on the action: check out Marcel Cobussen's awesome interactive dissertation.

But all these last examples still store the material in two separate locations: text v. sound, print v. web. Day's novella may not be a book for the ages (whatever that means), but she does such a wonderful job using the internet medium to its fullest potential.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Look At Me / I Gotta Case Of Body Language

If this year's AMS conference had been scheduled for one week earlier than it actually is, a critical mass of musicologists would be in San Francisco during the 4th Annual International Body Festival (Nov 1 - 6, 2011).

I dare you not to watch the whole video once you've started.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It Ain't No Sin To Take Off Your Skin And

Dance around in your bones!
Overtone singing in an x-ray machine.
(excerpt from INLAND (2002) by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud)

Overtone singing with X-ray (extract of INLAND) from momentum_prod on Vimeo.

(via notcot)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Slang / When You Notice The Stripes

A little late to the game on this one, but Q2 and NPR released a crowd-sourced 100 Composers Under 40 list way back in April.

Generally I don't buy into Lists, but I do think it's interesting to see what "the people" have come up with as representative of today's musical culture (ahem ahem: a lot of music that might fit in the much-disputed indie-classical genre). I'm a musicologist and I actively search for music by young composers - and even so, I've only heard works by 37 of the finalists. New music: not dead yet!

How did you do?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Of These Mornings / You're Going To Rise Up Singing

Porgy and Bess is getting a fresh coat of paint à la Broadway: a new (happier) ending, extra dialogue, revamped music, modernized sets and costumes, the works!

Not to show my hand too soon, but based on the New York Times preview I think this production sounds amazing:
It seems as though the impetus for the makeover was a fleshing out of Bess' character - and, in fact, the musical is directed by Diane Paulus; Suzan-Lori Parks modernized the libretto; Deirdre L. Murray adapted the music; and Audra McDonald signed on for the title role. Despite the fact that this will be a commercial musical designed to appeal to a variety of theatergoers, the production team is in no way skimping on the issues written into the plot, including rape, drugs, poverty, and racism.
In other words: a group of strong, mostly African-American women are re-examining what has always been a (beloved, but) problematic opera, they are introducing an entirely new audience to an old work, they are making it relevant to the 21st century, they are pushing at the boundaries of how we interact with "the canon," and in the process they are making new art.

But Stephen Sondheim hates everything about it, so.

I could get on my soap box and write about how adaptations do not debase the original - but it may be enough to say that I would hate to live in a world without gems like these:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waitin' On The World To Change

Something you never knew you always wanted to do:
New York Polyphony's Gregorian Chant Remix Opportunity

It's a contest (deadline June 20, 2011), and there are some pretty major prizes (including $500 and a release on Sony's Classical Music Online label Ariama). Not to mention the everlasting glory.

The best part about all this, though, is that there are already more than 600 entries - many of which you can hear on the contest's website here, here, and here. Some of these entries are clearly by professionals, and some are (clearly) not. Some are heavy on the synthesizers and drum kits, and some are simple a capella arrangements of the stem chant. In sum: there's a huge variety of work being submitted, and much of it is tagged with encouraging comments from other entrants. [Gregorian chant: bringing us together since Pippin the Short?]

"We like to have something of an urban vibe to the way we’re bringing this really ancient music to modern audiences,” Geoffrey Williams, New York Polyphony’s countertenor, said in a WQXR interview. These remixes may not be conducive to strict performance practice, but I think the excitement this contest has generated - and the community it has (even temporarily) created - is well worth the lapse.

(via WQXR)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For The Record

I adore this photo-essay by Dangerous Minds: Famous People Hanging Out With Their Vinyl

Do you know what you get when you type "famous people hanging out with their cd collection" or "famous people hanging out with their victrola" into google? (Actually, you get that photo-essay.) Point being: there's something about a record.

(via dangerousminds)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm Sittin' On Top Of The World

This is a today-only kind of blog post, friends, because Today Only google is celebrating what would have been Les Paul's 96th birthday with a guitar logo you can strum with your mouse. Even better: using the little black box, you can record thirty seconds of your very own Les-Paul-inspired guitar(computer) song.

Also courtesy of google: everything you ever wanted to know about Les Paul.

Oh, there he is.

(Forever link - to prove it really happened.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Shocking Blue

Musical Tesla coils, Zeusaphone, Thoremin - call it what you want, it's an instrument that digitally modifies lightning sparks to produce music. Lightning. Unfortunately, it looks like the only currently-touring lightning orchestra is a corporate-event-for-hire kind of affair, and the company that used to rent out these instruments over the internet (?!) has disbanded. Good thing there's youtube:

Check out: The Tesla Orchestra; Steve Ward; Open Spark Project; build your own(?).
(via all songs considered)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Popular / You're Gonna Be Popular

If you've ever browsed the Amazon mp3 music store, you've run into X5 Music Group. Definitely. (99 Most Essential Relaxing Classics. 99 Most Essential Mendelssohn Masterpieces. etc. etc. and so on and so forth. etc. ad infinitum.)

My initial reaction was to write them off as one of those cheap labels that aggregates second-rate performances for the unknowing masses. MY BAD. I haven't looked into every album, but the 99 Most Essential Opera Classics (which unfortunately no longer seems to be available) was worth every penny of the $1.99 that I spent: Kiri Te Kanawa, Joan Sutherland, the London Phil and Placido Domingo - these are big names.

A little research: X5 boasts 1,116 albums in Amazon's digital store, more than half of which are classical. In three years, the Stockholm-based company has become the best selling classical label in the US.

Alright! Someone is selling classical music in the US! Except: 99 Most Essential? Every. single. album. has a gimmick. A few favorites:

Classical Music As Heard in Hip-Hop

The 99 Most Essential Classical Pieces For Your Mind

Classical Workout - (you guys: I'm seriously considering it.)

An album titled 50 Greatest Hits of Opera! (exclamation point included) makes me a little queasy; on the other hand, the slick graphics and, yes, the themed gimmick seem to be working. If this is what it takes to get Americans to listen to classical music, I can be behind that 92%.

Bonus: they're starting a new series: Rise of the Masters. The chosen composers are marketed à la PiratesoftheCaribbean, and you can get an iphone app that "composerizes" your photo into "what you’d look like if you were a classical master composer." I am not even kidding.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teach Me How To Dougie

Yo Yo Ma, Lil' Buck, and Spike Jonze.
Cello, Jookin, and Film.
Teaching kids about creativity.
All in a day's work.

"We can build community like nothing else," Ma said in a radio interview. "All it takes is imagination, attention and empathy -- that we care."

(via colorlines)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Won't You Play That Pretty Music?

In which a ball run xylophone plays Bach's Cantata 147.

Full disclosure: I'm fairly certain this is a commercial for a cell phone - but that doesn't make it any less clever/mesmerizing. (I think it also brings up some interesting questions about music and marketing. It's "high-class" Bach on a homemade instrument, it's a familiar melody in an unexpected setting: the juxtapositions are intriguing, yes? All I know is: if this is what all commercials were like, maybe I'd watch more tv.)

(You might also like Rows of Tones.)

(via metafilter)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Float On

Historical flutes floating in space! Next, I would like to see space tubas, please.

(via metafilter)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cause The Way You're Steppin' Around / You're Steppin' Out Of Line

Not tone rows exactly, but definitely rows of tones.

"Czardas on 146 bottles"

"400 drums in 1 minute"

(via christoph and haveyouseenthis?!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Melody / It Was A Second Name

If you can't appreciate a 35-year-old man playing Josquin on multi-tracked melodica, then I don't want to know you.

(check out James Howard Young's youtube channel.)
(via metafilter)

Monday, March 21, 2011

People Call Her Sassy / That's Her Attitude

So why was I looking up musical affects mid-semester?

Readers, meet The Detritus Review.
I've been waiting for the right moment to introduce one of my favorite blogs, and this is it.

You know how sometimes you read concert reviews in newspapers and you wonder how someone who clearly knows nothing about music is not only getting paid to write about this Thing You Love The Most, but Is Simultaneously TAKING AWAY JOBS FROM LEGIT AND UNEMPLOYED MUSICOLOGISTS? (I feel strongly about it.)
Anyway: the three bloggers responsible for "Detritus" don't just wonder about these things. This is the mother of all music-criticism-deconstruction blogs, and it is guaranteed to make me laugh out loud no matter where I am (sorry, other library patrons) and to fill my daily snark quota. Maybe yours too?

I'll let it speak for itself: the 3/19/11 post.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Second That Emotion

Musical affects: they used to be kind of a big deal.
Enter equal temperament and all of a sudden they didn't mean so much anymore - but no student is going to get through a music history class without some mention of "emotions associated with individual keys."
On the other hand, very few music students are going to take the time mid-semester to look up which emotion goes with which key (cough cough: I'm guilty) - and that's too bad, because there were some IMAGINATIVE music scholars when it mattered.

According to Schubart: Ab major is all about putrefaction, Db major is a leering key, and f# minor "tugs at passion like a dog biting a dress." And of course our theorists had their differences: Schubart was convinced Eb major was the only key for representing intimacy with God, while Charpentier labeled it "cruel and hard." Oops?

[French] Compare treatises by: Charpentier (1682), Mattheson (1713), Rameau (1722), Schubart (1806)
[Not-so-good English translation]

[English] Schubart's Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst ca. 1806

An excellent overview of "Characteristics of Musical Keys"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is This The Real Life / Is This Just Fantasy?

Fourteen women / fourteen accordions: The Main Squeeze Orchestra.

Quote member Kelly Alba: "You put it on your chest and you wear it right next to your heart. You squeeze it, and it's like a big musical hug."

They also competed on America's Got Talent. America hated it.

[Now, if only the press (I'm looking at you, Village Voice) would stop calling this an "all-girl" orchestra, and if only America's Got Talent would take back comments like "[the (male) director is] kind of like the Hugh Heffner of the accordion world" and "for some reason I thought this was going to be sexy."
Respect and equality, wouldn't that be novel?]

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bum Dadada Bum Bum / Two Bits

And now for something totally mindless. Ha(i)rebrained, would you say?

A Visual Compendium of Notable Haircuts in Popular Music

(roll your cursor over the poster for the zoom)
(via notcot)

Friday, March 11, 2011

You / Light Up My Life

This is...just the coolest.

Dr. Charles Limb
, an otolaryngologist from Johns Hopkins, is conducting experiments trying to get at the neurological basis of musical creativity. Specifically: he put jazz musicians and freestyle rappers in an fMRI machine to learn how activity in the brain changes when musicians improvise v. when they perform memorized material.

I know this TED talk is 17 min, but you can hack it: you're on spring break!
No? Okay fine, here are the results highlights: 10'30" and 15'40". (But it really is worth watching the whole thing. And besides: what a charismatic otolaryngologist!)

(via metafilter)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Let's Start A Union / Calling Every Human

I didn't even go looking for this; youtube suggested it, and aren't we all glad?

Louis Andriessen
Workers Union (1975)
for any loud-sounding group of instruments

bonus: performed by eighth blackbird!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Can You Hear The People Sing?

Hello friends! I apologize about the hiatus - I've been having trouble coming up with something that adequately represents what's been going on in Wisconsin over the past two weeks. Believe that I'm not trivializing anything when I say: PLENTY OF MUSIC, guys.

Day 13: Flash Mob in the Capitol Rotunda

Fight on, Wisconsin!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Can't Fight The Moonlight

Sara Naim: Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata (2008)

The artist's statement:
"This body of work looks at translating sound into a photographic image. Ludwig Van Beethoven’s symphony vibrates through milk. He composed this piece in the early 1800’s for his blind pupil and lover, Giuletta Gucciardi. Gucciardi said to Beethoven that she wished she could see the moonlight. Beethoven then composed a piece about the moonlight’s reflection off Austria’s Lake Lucerne, called Moonlight Sonata."

The series of twelve photos begins here. Sound and spilled milk together at last.

(via tasteologie)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Problems / Problems / Problems All Day Long

Retrospective diagnoses: epilepsy, depression, cystic fibrosis.

It's brand-new research/speculation, so you can't find it in a book.

(moburns gets all the credit for that last link)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Just Me And My Guitar

I started this post looking for photos or video of Christian Marclay's phonoguitar (a modified turntable he could strap around his neck and "play" [he especially liked recreating Hendrix tunes]), but: turns out that's difficult.

I did, however, find a video of one of his newer works, Guitar Drag (2000). Yes, that's an amplified Fender with a rope around the frets, dragged behind a pick-up truck over rural roads in Texas. Obviously.
The piece is a sort of homage to guitar mythologies, instrument smashing and shock performance, as well as a response to the 1998 lynching-by-dragging of James Byrd, Jr. And (with no good way to segue back into the relatively trivial) Guitar Drag is also about sound: fourteen minutes of what the Washington Post calls "found-art power chords." There's even a commercial recording out there somewhere.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hear My Confession / I Have Been Wrong About You

I know this video is practically old news, but I'm easing into the new year.
Hey, Happy New Year friends!