Monthly Archives: September 2009

Memorandum

DATE: Monday, September 28, 2009
FROM: William White
TO: Mrs. M. J. S– and Her Merrie Band of Bowers
RE: Sibelius Second Symphony: Notes on the Markings

Dear Mrs. S– and Assorted Toilers of the Performing Ensembles Division,

Thank you so much for marking the string parts for my recital.  You will find that I have used many of the bowings already in the parts, and I hope this makes your jobs all that much easier.

As far as I can tell, there will be more erasing for you to do than marking.  Generally, I would like for the parts to be as clean as possible, within the bounds of reason.

Here are a few guidelines and helpful suggestions:

  • Please observe the instances where I have marked a bracket to indicate a subito dynamic level.
  • Please do mark my beat patterns (such as “in 3” or “in 4”), also circling them.
  • In certain cases, you may notice that I have erased one of my own bowings and written in a new one.  This is because I have come up with a better idea.
  • At the end of the fourth movement, please be sure to erase any mention in the parts of tremolo.  If a player has marked the beginning of this passage “measured” or “misurato”, by all means keep it.
  • You may come across such “colorful” notations as “Cotton Candy” or “Killer Bees” in the already marked parts.  These and other such marginalia are patently the scribblings of a depraved imaginationErase them with haste! Such hogwash is the antithesis of music and needn’t sully the minds of our fine student musicians.
  • Please do not erase any markings such as “Watch”, “Count”, or artistic renderings of tiny spectacles.  These are miniature gems, pearls of wisdom handed down to us from the past.  In fact, if you are feeling frisky, I would encourage you to sprinkle such helpful annotations at random in the parts.
  • I notice that the master copies have numbered measures and the other parts do not, despite the fact that they are obviously printings of the same plates.  If the additional parts are not numbered, I would very much appreciate it if you could number them.  This shouldn’t be an untenably large task, since you can merely copy the numbers at the beginning of each line of music from the masters.  In the case of the ‘Cello master, I have numbered the part myself.
  • Finally, allow me a short rumination on the philosophy of marking parts: I feel that parts should be marked only to change, enhance, or render more specific what is already on the page; never merely to emphasize it.  As such, if you find a part that is overly laden with circlings of dynamics, I would bid you please tidy them up.  After all, what does a circled dynamic indicate?  That this particular dynamic should be followed while the rest are ignored?  Perish the thought.  We must encourage our players to follow the printed instructions on the page, interpreting them with taste and care for the musical context.  I myself have been known to passive-aggressively erase such markings by my stand partners, immediately after they finish writing them, much to their consternation and annoyance.  Let’s try to avoid such situations by presenting the parts free of useless clutter.  Once again, I thank you.

Wrap-up

Well, the results of the highly acclaimed “Orchestra” poll are in, and here are the scores:

Lenny: 4 votes

Larry David: 2 votes

Charlie Rose: 2 votes

Nelson Riddle: 1 vote

Aaron Copland: 1 vote

Loren Maazel: 1 vote

These tallies are rather liberal, in that I assigned a vote to any mention of a participant”s name in a response.

So, kudos to Leonard Bernstein on this posthumous honor.  I must say I was a bit surprised… I thought Loren Maazel was a shoe-in.  But how can you go wrong with LB?  What”s my opinion, you ask?  Well, some of you thought that I had in fact cast the first vote, but the initial comment, authored by a putative “will” was not me, but my friend Benjamin “William” Slocòmbé.  I personally agree 100% with my other good friend Eric “El Bensòn” L. Benson, who prefers the particularly mellifluous yet syllablically daring rendering of Aaron Copland.  He also notes, quite correctly, that Larry David”s rendition bares a striking resemblance to the Copland.  So, I would say that Eric is also a winner in this contest.

Speaking of El Bensòn, you should totally check out his new blog: Inverted Garden.

In other news, Vincent Turner, aka. FrankMusik”s album “Complete Me” is now available this side of the pond.

Also, if you like FrankMusik, there is a slight chance you might like Tayisha Busay. (Although I”d recommend skipping the first track on their myspace player.)

As for me, I spent this past week hunkered down in a pit playing cembalo for IU”s production of “L”Italiana in Algeri”.  Playing cembalo so damn fun, every night offering new opportunities for improvised audacity.  This Sunday, I play my “3 Waltz Scenes” at a small student concert, a very thrown together affair.  We”ll see how it stands up…

Orchestra

Americans used to have the most marvelous way of saying the word “orchestra”, somewhere in between “awchestra” and “ohchestra”.  It had a vaguely patrician ring to it and yet it was entirely of the people.  I don’t think it was a regional pronunciation, although New Yorkers and Bostonites certainly pronounced that way, as did everyone in the movies.

Now it’s time for a reader vote.  I’ve amassed a small collection of 20th and 21st century personalities, all Americans, saying “orchestra”.  Included are some notable hangers-on to the old tradition.  Whose version of the word “orchestra” do you like the best?  Leave your vote in the comments section!

Aaron Copland http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Perhaps the finest representative version of the old-style way of saying “orchestra”.  Quite pleasant and mellifluous.

Frank Sinatra http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Surprisingly, this is a pretty modern rendition, although I’m quite sure that if I did a little more digging, I would find Frank saying “orchestra” with more of the original flavor to it.

Nelson Riddle http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Again, somewhere in the middle, but closer to the modern way.

Loren Maazel http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

A very classic, very patrician reading, for a very classic, very patrician sort of man. [His “Nawth Korean” ain’t bad either.]

Elmer Bernstein http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Elmer “No Relation” Bernstein falls slightly on the classic side of the dividing line.

Charlie Rose http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

For me, Charlie has about the best rendition of “orchestra” of anyone under 70.  An interview between him and Loren Maazel is a match made in heaven and a symphony of syllables when it comes to this word.

Lenny http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Lenny’s version is definitely in the classic category, though there are plenty of examples of him saying “orchestra” that have a more modern twist.  This particular version leans heavily on the “ohchestra” side of things and has a vaguely British quality to it.

Larry David http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/aaron%20copland.mp3

Larry David’s version is a fascinating one — his “awk” is very purely classic, and he really breaks up the rest of the syllables.

I really think that a revolution is afoot and that we can get the word “orchestra” back to being pronounced the way it ought to be. It is our American birthright.

So, please do leave a comment about who says “orchestra” your favorite way, and which way might work best for you!

Tovey conducts rare “The Warriors” at the Hollywood Bowl

Bumping into that headline recently, I had to wonder: should Bramwell Tovey really be challenging David Patrick Kelly’s legendary interpretation of “The Warriors”?  I mean, come on – it’s iconic:

But perhaps I’m not a qualified judge — I mean I thought I knew that piece, but I didn’t even realize it was by Percy Grainger! I think Mark Swed really brings some interesting things to light in his article:

“The Warriors” was Grainger’s largest score, both in length and size of forces.

Haven’t we all aspired to writing for such magisterial forces as three beer bottles and a high tenor? [Editor’s note: nah…]

Completed in 1916, “The Warriors” has passages as rhythmically bold as Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” which premiered three years earlier.

To wit:

Picture 1

Mwa ha ha ha… I kill me.

But seriously, you can get a recording of the actual piece here.  It’s definitely a capital c C-razy piece of music if ever there was one.  More from Swed:

“The Warriors” divides devout Graingerites. Some find it an embarrassment. Others consider it his greatest masterpiece.

OK, I don’t know what to say about all that, except that “devout Graingerites” find “The Warriors” an embarrassment?? Isn’t it embarrassing enough that their idol was a crazy Australian S&M freak who kept categorical records of the whips that he used to flagellate himself? Not to mention an Aryan supremacist?  Nope, it’s THIS that embarrasses them:

http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/warriors%20clip%20edit.mp3
All I’m saying is, Priorities, people.

From chimpan-A to chimpan-Z

ctop1

In hard-hitting news that I am 100% not making up, the Canadian National Post reports on a story about a U.S. “scientist” from UW-Madison who has been conducting research on what kind of music monkeys are into. From the article:

Two university professors in the United States sought to find out whether monkeys would appreciate 30-second clips of music specially created for them more than popular music created for human listeners. Previous studies have found that monkeys prefer silence to any human music with a tempo, including German techno songs and Russian lullabies.

Frankly I think most sentient species prefer silence to German techno songs and Russian lullabies, but this gets better:

The human versions of songs used in the experiment included 30-second clips from Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Metallica’s Of Wolf and Man and Tool’s The Grudge. Researchers studied their responses for five minutes after each song played.

While Metallica and Tool were used as examples of music humans find arousing, the monkeys found the crunchy guitar chords calming. Eating, grooming, and engaging were indications the monkeys were relaxed.

Fair enough.  In fact, the monkey at the top of this post looks like he might have spent the better part of the 80’s rocking out to Metallica, maybe a little too hard — if you know what I mean.  The article goes on to explain, however, that the putative UW-M “researcher” collaborated with his friend David Teie, a cellist in the National Symphony Orchestra, to create music specifically designed for the monkeys’ enjoyment.  Here is the first clip:

http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/Monkey%20music%202.mp3
which I believe was meant to inspire some sort of simian George Crumb-Merce Cunningham collaboration.

OK, there’s no way to prepare you the second piece of music for the monkeys:

http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/Monkey%20music%202.mp3
And again, I am totally not making any of this up.  About the monkey music, the article goes on to say:

When the primates heard the monkey versions of both songs, on the other hand, they reacted as the researchers predicted they would. The monkeys urinated, shook their heads and stretched, indicating an increased state of arousal.

Funny, I did the exact same thing after hearing that last clip.

In the name of science, I would like to suggest a slightly different program for the monkeys, one sure to gain their undivided attention:

http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/Monkey%20music%202.mp3

http://www.willcwhite.com/audio/Monkey%20music%202.mp3

smiling monkey