Alpert and altruism

alpert-obama

The Herb Alpert Foundation has made major grants to the UCLA School of Music and California Institute of the Arts.

In a 2010 interview, Alpert discussed his philanthropic goals, especially that of supporting educational programs that move beyond a focused concentration on the technical aspects of the musical art.

“There’s two ways to approach jazz,” he said, “you can approach it from the outside point of view where you have chords that are a little remote from the actual melody, or you can stay within the context of the song and play it from that angle. I don’t try to force any notes or rely on techniques that I’ve learned through the years. I try to just let it happen as it happens—which is the only way to approach jazz.”

This according to  “In the name of imagination” by Don Heckman (Jazz education guide 2009–2010, pp. 20–26).

Today is Herb Alpert’s 80th birthday! Above, receiving the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2013; below, back in the day.

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Una colección de patrimonio musical español

Paciendo el rebaño

The Fons de Música Tradicional at the Institució Milà i Fontanals (CSIC-IMF) in Barcelona has more than 20.000 melodies, copied on paper, collected between 1944 and 1960 throughout Spain; most of them were compiled through the 65 folkloric missions and 62 notebooks presented to competitions organized by the Folklore Section of the former Instituto Español de Musicología of the CSIC, in which 47 researchers participated.

Launched in 2015, Una colección de patrimonio musical español/Una col·lecció de patrimoni musical/A Spanish collection of traditional music heritage is an open-acces database comprising digitized materials of the music collected in the competitions and missions of Andalusia, Balearic Islands, Castile-La Mancha, the Castile and León region, Catalunya, Galicia, the Murcia region, and the Valencian community; more materials from these and other Spanish regions will be incorporated later.

The site can be navigated in Spanish, Catalan, or English; searches may be organized by source, location, researcher, informant, genre, or title. Audio files of the melodies will eventually be added.

Above, notation for the instrumental tune Paciendo el rebaño; the full record, which includes other visual materials, is here.

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Boulez goes electroacoustic

Répons

Répons (1981–84), the first major work to arise from Pierre Boulez’s involvement with IRCAM, is underpinned by a collection of five chords. Surface details interact with the compositional scheme but achieve a certain independence and spontaneity.

Nevertheless, the density of the music, which is sometimes enhanced by computer-facilitated transformation, at times veers towards a phantasmagoric, seamless web that threatens to undermine the articulation of space generated by the configurations of blocks and individual moments. Boulez’s spatial dialogue of system and idea is illuminated by Adorno’s theoretical attempts to turn systematic thought towards the particular.

This according to “Répons: Phantasmagoria or the articulation of space?” by Alastair Williams, an essay included in Theory, analysis and meaning in music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 195–210).

Today is Boulez’s 90th birthday! Above, part of the score of Répons; below, the composer conducts a performance of the work in a film by Robert Cahen.

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Music for abusers

Istedgade

For some decades the back entrance of the Hovedbanegård (Central Station) in København served as a shelter and meeting place for alcoholics, drug abusers, and drug dealers, because this part of the station faces Istedgade Kvarteret (Isted Street Quarter, above), a part of the city that accommodates prostitution and pornography shops and cinemas. When narcotics entered the milieu of prostitution, this part of the city also became the home of junkies and drug dealers.

After a major restoration of the station in the 1990s the management wanted to get rid of the abusers in the back entrance. So did many travelers. And as the police did not succeed, they adopted a concept that had proved its efficiency at the central station in Hamburg. By playing music from the Romantic period through a loudspeaker, they stressed the abusers so much that, after a few days of persistence, they left the entrance hall.

Most of the junkies and alcoholics are not familiar with nor attracted to classical Romanticism, and popular music has been a vital part of their lifestyle. Therefore they feel uncomfortable when smoking, fixing, or dealing accompanied by strange classical music. For the travelers, however, Romantic-era music is a preferred genre compared to, for example, medieval music, atonal music, bebop, or modern jazz, and they are not bothered by it during the half minute it takes to pass through the entrance.

This according to “Musik for misbrugere” by Olav Harsløf (Antropologi LIV [2006–2007] pp. 87–98). Below, an excerpt from Berlioz’s opium-themed Symphonie fantastique, a Romantic-era work suitable for the station’s loudspeaker.

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Filed under Curiosities, Reception, Romantic era

Bach or the Devil

Devil_Plays_His_Organ

During his life, Bach was primarily known as a dazzling organist with virtuoso improvising abilities. Not surprisingly, his prowess gave rise to a number of urban legends.

One such legend had him traveling incognito, dressed as a village schoolmaster, going from church to church to try out the organs—prompting one local organist to cry out, “I don’t know who’s playing, but it’s either Bach or the Devil!”

This according to “Tod und Teufel” by Frieder Reininghaus, an essay included in Bach-ABC (Sinzig: Studio-Verlag, 2007, pp. 91–93).

Today is Bach’s 330th birthday! Below, the tocatta and fugue in D minor, BWV 565, which always seems to surface around Halloween.

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Svâtoslav Rihter’s spontaneous recitals

sviatoslav-richter-kiev-1958

In a 1997 interview, Svâtoslav Rihter spoke about his love of unscheduled performing.

“I now know from experience that things planned too far in advance always end up being aborted. Always! Either you fall ill, or you’re prevented from appearing for some other reason, whereas if you improvise—“The day after tomorrow? Of course, why not?” or, if the worst comes to the worst, “Next week?”—everything passes off smoothly. I may be on form today, but who can tell what I’ll feel like on such-and-such a date in the more-or-less distant future?”

“And so, when I arrive in a country I prefer to open a map and show my impresarios the places that have certain associations for me or that excite my curiosity and, if possible, that I’ve not yet had a chance to visit. We then set off by car, followed by the pianos, avoiding motorways like the plague. And then I may play in a theater or chapel or in a school playground at Roanne, Montluçon, or in some remote corner of Provence. All that matters is that people come not out of snobbery but to listen to the music.”

This from Sviatoslav Richter: Notebooks and conversations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001, pp. 110, 114).

Today is Rihter’s 100th birthday! Above, in Kiev in 1958; below, a 1964 performance of Prokof’ev’s second piano sonata.

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Ice Music

ice music

In 2014 the guitarist Charlie Sexton and other musicians from Austin, Texas, collaborated with Danish and Swedish musicians in the cross-cultural jam known as Ice Music in Luleå, Sweden.

The artists co-wrote and performed songs on violins, cellos, and other “icestruments” designed by the instrument maker Tim Linhart. The icestruments are played inside igloos to slow the melting process. Some must be suspended from the ceiling to avoid cracking, and all require frequent tuning, re-freezing with dry ice vapor, and spot repairs, as handling and body heat cause nearly instantaneous melting.

Linhart hopes the collaboration with the musicians from Texas will be the start of a long-term project to establish a new genre of music inspired by the elements.

This according to “For these musicians, hot licks provide cold comfort: Players in Sweden make music from ice instruments; beware of melting violins” by Anna Molin and Miguel Bustillo (The Wall Street journal CCLXV/57 [11 March 2015] pp. A1, A10); an online version of the article is here.

Above and below, Ice Music in Luleå.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Instruments

Musik und Klangkultur

Musik--Raum--Technik

In 2014 transcript Verlag launched the series Musik und Klangkultur with Musik—Raum—Technik: Zur Entwicklung und Anwendung der graphischen Programmierumgebung Max.

The book discusses the visual programming language for music and multimedia known as Max. After over two decades of development and application, Max has become a sort of international lingua franca in practically-oriented music, art, and media institutions. A complete cultural-historical survey is presented, in which the software figures as the product of a specific sphere of aesthetic practice, which retroactively evokes innovative production structures. The focus of the analysis thus becomes the reciprocal influences of technological and artistic production.

Below, a demonstration of Percussa AudioCubes, an electronic musical instrument that allows users to create Max/Msp patches using an OSC server.

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EYECatalunya

 

eyecatalunya

Historically Catalunya has been a place where people from different cultures have found a home in which to exchange ideas and develop creative projects.

EYECatalunya provides an interactive platform where people from all over the world can meet and interact with the most innovative creators living in Catalunya.

Launched in 2014, the open-access website is a portal for a monthly program dedicated to promoting Catalan creativity to the world, broadcast live from Arts Santa Mònica in Barcelona; it includes previous broadcasts, a calendar of upcoming talks, and a way to register as a creator.

Below, a brief English-language introduction.

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Stravinsky and Baba the Turk

Baba the Turk

Like many operas, Stravinsky’s The rake’s progress is deeply flawed, confused, and contradictory. It presents an overextended musical pastiche, an overly clever libretto by W.H. Auden, and a grim view of human nature.

Yet the scenes of act 3 encompass comedy, dramatic tension, and lyrical pathos, and the opera redeems itself because it moves into its own Bedlam, the land of opera. Although the character of Baba the Turk remains enigmatic in the theater, she embodies the spirit of the opera. Baba was Auden’s way of asserting the power of art over nature.

This according to “Redeeming the rake” by David Schiff (The Atlantic monthly CCLXXX/5 [November 1997] pp. 136–139).

Above, Baba portrayed by Leah-Marian Jones; below, by Dagmar Pecková.

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