Five things you probably didn’t know about Mozart




In 1764 his father was dangerously ill. No one was allowed to touch the piano. To keep himself occupied, young Wolfgang decided to compose his first symphony for full orchestra (K.16). Mozart’s habit of laying in bed to compose alarmed his doctor, who advised him to stand while composing and get as much bodily exercise as he could. Mozart loved billiards, bowling, and skittles, largely because they did not occupy his mind. He could get some exercise and compose at the same time. His Trio for Piano, Clarinet, and Viola (K. 498) is known as the Kegelstatt Trio (skittles alley) … Continue reading

It’s Too Darn Hot, from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate




There have been a lot more 90º degree-days than normal this summer. From what I see on weather reports, most of the country has been broiling, baking, roasting, or stewing, depending on how bad the humidity is. So lots of other people must be thinking, “It’s Too Darn Hot.” The song of that name by Cole Porter appears in his great musical Kiss Me Kate, a play within a play in which a divorced couple, who still secretly love each other despite their constant quarreling, star in a production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare’s bawdiness provided Porter … Continue reading

Non-musicians on music: 10 quotations




Just as no one has to be a musician to listen to and enjoy music, no one has to be a musician to have interesting, informative, and even provocative things to say about it. Here are ten quotations to demonstrate that truth: Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist. ~ G. K. Chesterton Military justice is to justice what military music is to music. ~ Groucho Marx Music is a discipline, and a mistress of order and good manners, she makes the people milder and gentler, more moral and more reasonable. ~ Martin Luther … Continue reading

Why do some composers and works not survive in the repertoire?




I’m sure everyone knows that the amount of classical music performed and recorded today represents only a small fraction of what has been written. It seems a common assumption that these composers must have written inferior music that deserves to be forgotten. While that is certainly true in some cases it does not explain everything. Fashions change. A hundred years ago, music lovers thought Haydn hopelessly old-fashioned. They welcomed Rossini overtures on concert programs, but only The Barber of Seville of all of his operas maintained its place on stage. They regarded Telemann as one of Bach’s inferior contemporaries and … Continue reading

Building an audience for symphony orchestra concerts — with video games?




According to stereotype, classical music in general and symphony orchestra concerts in particular appeal to an aging elite. That perception justifies cutting orchestras from schools, booking orchestras for school assemblies or college arts series much less frequently than in the recent past, and changing classical music radio stations to other formats. Orchestras must develop strategies for building an audience in order to survive. Here is a video about the kind of orchestral music used as the sound tracks to video games. Someone on an email list I follow sent it along. Several orchestras have presented entire concerts devoted to video … Continue reading

Composers on music: 10 quotations




Many musicians have observed that if everything could be expressed with words, music would be unnecessary. That doesn’t mean that musicians can’t use words. Composers have talked or written about music for centuries. They have had opinions about their own music and musical abilities, praise or disdain for other composers, and philosophical musings about the nature and importance of music in general. Here are some interesting quotations. Give me a laundry list and I’ll set it to music. — Gioacchino Antonio Rossini My music is best understood by children and animals. — Igor Stravinsky Truly there would be reason to … Continue reading

Miserere, by Henryk Górecki




In 1994, when I was living and teaching in the Chicago area, one of my graduate students, a member of the Lira Chamber Chorus, invited me to one of the group’s concerts at St. Mary of the Angels Church on the northwest side of Chicago. The entire concert would be devoted to new choral works by Henryk Górecki. I had never heard of him and found it intriguing that an entire concert would consist of the works of one living foreign composer. For most of the program, the Lira Chamber Chorus made up only part of a massed choir, collaborating … Continue reading

Pending trombone legislation




I saw this on Trombone-L some time ago, chuckled, and deleted it. Now it has just come across another list, and it seems worth sharing. If you like it, you can bookmark it here. Surely that will make finding it again easier than hunting through old emails! []]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] WASHINGTON, D.C. – Each year thousands are people are killed, maimed or annoyed by trombones. The statistics of head, neck and even shoulder injuries sustained by reed players, french horn and string sections seated within reach of the deadly seventh position are truly shocking…not to mention forced early retirement due to ever-increasing … Continue reading

Jeux de cartes by Igor Stravinsky

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After beginning his career as a very Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky became an international composer in at least two very different ways. First, he decided never to return to Russia after the Revolution of 1917. Although he lived in France, he traveled a lot. By the time he moved to the United States in 1939, he had already made numerous contacts. Second, he opened himself to influences from all over the world. Despite the French title, Stravinsky wrote Jeux de cartes (Card Game) on commission from American choreographer George Balanchine and the newly formed American Ballet in 1936. By that … Continue reading

Brass Bands of the American Civil War




I like to look around on YouTube from time to time. I recently typed “brass band” into the search engine, and a video called “Brass Bands of the Civil War” came up on the first page of results. I wondered how that subject could possibly work in a video. I have seen “videos” with a single photograph and music playing in the background. This one has a collage of wonderful photos and drawings while the Federal City Brass Band plays on period instruments. At the time of the Civil War, brass bands ruled. Few bands included woodwinds. As the photographs … Continue reading