Beethoven rises to a challenge!!

Everyone knows about Ludwig van Beethoven. He is a towering figure in Classical music, renowned for his contributions to the symphony, the string quartet, the piano sonata, and much more. No one but musicologists know much about Daniel Steibelt. They mostly remember him for using the tambourine in so many of  his piano sonatas (his wife played tambourine), for introducing the Chinese gong into his opera Romeo et Juliette (although later musicologists have determined it was some kind of tuned bell instead), and for coming out the loser in a brash challenge to Beethoven. Steibelt was born in Berlin. He … Continue reading

A Dog’s Taste for Bruckner

Some of Anton Bruckner’s students decided to play a trick on him. While he was out to  lunch, they played music on the piano for Bruckner’s dog. As one of them played a motive from Richard Wagner’s music, the others chased the dog around the room and slapped him. But when they played from Bruckner’s own Te Deum, they gave the dog treats. Once the dog started running away every time he heard Wagner’s music and came bounding toward the piano with his tail wagging every time he heard Bruckner’s, the students prepared the next part of their plan. When … Continue reading

Would a university hire Mozart?

I have no idea where the following letter came from. Someone forwarded it to me on email years ago. Now that I’ve found it again, it’s too good not to share. March 15 Dear Dean X: I write in response to your suggestion of an appointment to our faculty for a Mr. W.A. Mozart, currently of Vienna, Austria. While the Music Department appreciates your interest, faculty are sensitive about their prerogatives in the selection of new colleagues. While the list of works and performances that the candidate submitted is undoubtedly a full one, though not always accurate in the view … Continue reading

The Serpent (and I thought the trombone gets no respect)

The serpent was the bass of the old wooden cornett. As such, it predates the invention of keys and mechanics that make them work. It got its name from its  curvy shape. No one would have been able to hold it or finger it if it were straight. As it is, the tone holes are placed according to where the player’s fingers can reach them and the right size for the player’s fingers to cover them. They are neither large enough nor properly placed for either optimum tone or intonation according to the laws of acoustics. As the quotations below … Continue reading

What color is the Blue Danube?

Is the beautiful blue Danube blue? Slonimsky reports that someone in Vienna watched it for an hour every day for a year to note its color. It was green 255 days, gray 60 days, yellow 40 days, brown 10 days, and not once blue. According to a letter to the New York Times in 1945, it was, in fact, blue upstream from Vienna. Was it blue in Vienna when Strauss wrote the waltz? How far upstream do we  have to go to see it blue today? … Continue reading

Creole Band

The first jazz band to tour the vaudeville circuit, and therefore gain recognition outside of New Orleans, was the Creole Band (James Palao, violin; Fred Keppard, cornet; George Baquet, clarinet; Eddie Vincent, trombone; Ollie”Dink” Johnson, drums; Norwood Williams, guitar; and Bill Johnson, bass). They declined an offer to make commercial recordings, therefore giving the prestige and fame of making the first recorded jazz to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a white band. The Creole Band virtually disappeared from jazz history until Lawrence Gushee published  his Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band in 2005. … Continue reading

An Earnest Request

Everybody knows not to leave cell phones on at a concert. Or at least everyone has heard reminders before concerts. What could have possibly created such a disturbance before the noisy things were invented? Here’s a note printed on the front of the Glyndebourne program of 1935: “Patrons are earnestly requested not to flash TORCHES during the Performances. It is aggravating to the rest of the audience but intolerable to the Artists. It is much worse than ‘walking behind the bowler’s arm’ at cricket.” Now that we know that, what annoyed audiences before the invention of the flashlight?

Suite(s) from Swan Lake

The community orchestra I play in just played the suite from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake–at least that’s what I thought it was when we first started rehearsing. I certainly didn’t know anything unusual about the piece. I’d heard the waltz many times, and it was nice to have a chance to play it. Some of the other movements have fun trombone parts, too. Trombone parts in orchestral music always have lots of long rests and seldom have good cues. If I don’t already have a recording of the pieces we perform, I try to get one. So I went online and … Continue reading

How did you come to love music?

My father has always loved his record collection. Some of my earliest memories are the records he played whenever he had some leisure time. (I’ll date myself. The earliest were 78s, for whatever it’s worth.) He loves classical music and the popular music of  his generation–mostly big band jazz. Since I grew up with those sounds in the house–if not constantly, then very frequently–I suspect that’s why I grew up loving classical music and big band jazz. What about other classical music lovers–and lovers of popular music from before your own generation? How did you come to love it? From … Continue reading

Welcome to Musicology for Everyone

I’m not sure when I first heard the word musicology, but it must have been some time before I had any interest in pursuing it seriously. I majored in composition and trombone performance as an undergraduate. I have a masters in musicology, but started to work on a doctorate in performance before I decided musicology was a better fit. When I started college, I had a double major in music and history. (And yes, my music major was a double major, too. Kids! Think they can do it all! What a glutton for punishment!) The history major did not survive … Continue reading