The enraged neighbor, or, trombones don’t get no respect




“The downstairs neighbors must have had quite a party last night. It almost sounded like someone was pounding on the ceiling until two o’click in the morning.” “That must have made it hard to sleep.” “It sure would have. Fortunately I was still practicing my trombone” I know I’ve had trouble finding apartments where I could practice, And I’m never up that late. I told prospective landlords that I would do my practicing mostly in the early evening and never practice late at night or early in the morning. Little did I realize that trombonists had had similar troubles for … Continue reading

Quotations on sound and silence




A music appreciation textbook I used to use defined music as sound and silence, organized in time. That’s an awfully broad definition, but it’s right to include silence. Musicians and philosophers have pointed out the relationship between music and silence almost since the beginning of writing about music at all. Here is a selection of quotations. Music is the silence between the notes ~Claude Debussy A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. ~Leopold Stokowski The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where … Continue reading

God Save the South: an update on Confederate music




MRP4SNZYDHBB The Library of Congress Civil War Sheet Music Collection has five different items called “God Save the South!” These are attributed to three different composers. Not all of them name the author of the words. I have searched the collection by the keyword “Confederate,” obtaining a list of 493 items sorted by title. As it is impossible to resort that list, I have been working on a spreadsheet that I can sort in whatever ways are necessary. I am at the step of determining whether items with the same titles represent the same music or not. This post is … Continue reading

Moses Asch, Harry Smith, and the Anthology of American Folk Music




A dreamer and an eccentric, working together, turned the American music industry on its ear. They issued a revolutionary recorded anthology. In the first half of the twentieth century, so-called Tin Pan Alley composers, who mostly lived in New York, produced the bulk of America’s popular music. Their sophisticated, urban music did not satisfy all the musical needs of the entire country. The singing and fiddling of rural musicians made no impression on the country’s city and town dwellers until the appearance of the Anthology of American Folk Music. Moses Asch, the dreamer, had made it his life’s goal to … Continue reading

American shaped notes tune books and the fasola tradition




When William Little and William Smith published The Easy Instructor (Philadelphia 1801), they started a spate of shaped notes tune books over the next half century or so. Perhaps the best known today is The Sacred Harp (1844). The traditional singing style associated with these books is known as the Sacred Harp style. The four shapes correspond to four syllables (fa, sol, la, mi) that form the theoretical underpinnings for the way these tunes have long been taught. Anyone who knows “Do, a deer” from The Sound of Music knows that there are seven syllables. Where did this fasola come … Continue reading

Opera rocks: Jackie Evancho’s new album




As I was getting ready to leave the gym this morning, the TV news had a story that made me stay to watch it. Jackie Evancho, the 11-year-old soprano who captured the nation’s imagination on “America’s God Talent” last year, has a record out and it has outsold Lady GaGa. Since the record came out only yesterday, who knows how long it will continue to outsell Lady GaGa? And yet Evancho’s success a year after the buzz over her success on America’s Got Talent is great news for real music. Lady GaGa makes her reputation on outrageous costumes, outrageous public … Continue reading

Grimethorpe Colliery Band, Saddleworth, and Nostalgia




I decided to look at YouTube for inspiration for today’s post and thought it was past time to mention the British tradition of brass bands. The Grimethorpe Colliery Band, one of Britain’s truly outstanding bands, is one I recalled hearing live when I was in England. So I looked them up and was surprised to find this clip from the 1998 Saddleworth Brass Band Contests, taken in the village of Delph. More on why I was surprised later. By the way, the video has two marches; the first is called “The Cobblers.” British brass bands differ greatly from American wind … Continue reading

Gisele MacKenzie sings Papa Loves Mambo in a holiday setting. 12-18-1954




The mambo, a Cuban dance form, first became popular in the United States in the late 1940s and reached its peak of  popularity here in about 1954. Perry Como’s recording of the song “Papa Loves Mambo,” by Al Hoffman, Dick Manning, and Bix Reichner,  was released on August 31, 1954 and made it to #5 or #4 on the Billboard chart later in the year. Nowadays most recording artists perform their own material, but in the 1950s, the fact that Como scored big did not mean that other stars regarded the song as his. Many performers sought to capitalize on … Continue reading

Classical music at a bar?




According to a story on NPR’s Weekend Edition, “Beethoven and Beer at the Happy Dog,” members of the Cleveland Orchestra have been playing classical chamber music since June 2010 at the Happy Dog, a neighborhood bar on the near-west side of town, under the name Orchestral Manoeuvres at the Dog. People love it, and the bar is packed every time they play. It gives customers who would never go to Severance Hall a chance to hear classical music and gives the bar customers who would not otherwise come. It also gives the musicians a chance to make music more spontaneously. … Continue reading

A cruel abuse of classical music




Life has begun to imitate life in the worst way. In Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange (written in 1962), authorities subject an unruly but music-loving youngster to “the Ludovico technique.” They force him to take nausea-inducing drugs and watch violent movies while listening to Beethoven. In the end, he is no longer able to enjoy Beethoven’s music. They stole his former love with that treatment. Lately it has come to my attention that certain British authorities have reinvented “the Ludovico technique.” Apparently having eliminated exposure to classical music from the curriculum, they assume that young people will automatically find … Continue reading