Celos aun del aire matan: Fiesta cantada (opera in three acts) (Middleton: A-R editions, 2014) is a critical performing edition of the earliest extant Hispanic opera, Celos aun del aire matan by Juan Hidalgo (1614–85). The work is the most extensive surviving example of Hispanic Baroque theatrical music.
Designed for the Spanish royal court’s festivities honoring the marriage of Infanta María Teresa of Spain and King Louis XIV of France, this passionate fiesta cantada in three acts was first produced in Madrid, thanks to the collaboration of Hidalgo and the court dramatist, Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–81). The opera was designed for performance by a cast of young female actress-singers (the only role requiring a male voice is for a comic tenor) and a continuo group.
This edition, which includes an extensive introduction, an English translation of the Calderón text, and a unique loa from the 1682 Naples production, contributes to a better understanding of Hidalgo’s music and the contribution of Hispanic music to early modern musical culture.
Above and below, moments from a 2000 performance of the work at the Teatro Real in Madrid.
The singer, composer, and bandleader Bobby Byrd’s life and career were closely intertwined with those of James Brown.
Growing up together in Toccoa, Georgia, Byrd gave Brown his first break by inviting him to join the Famous Flames—the vocal group founded by Byrd—after his family took a young Brown into their home following a prison term served for robbery.
After Brown seized the frontman spot, and after he briefly dismissed the Flames altogether, Byrd went on to play an integral role in Brown’s career both on stage and off for the next ten years, providing vocal counterpoint and musical leadership while also serving as an intermediary between the singers, musicians, and dancers employed by Brown.
Known for his catch phrase “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing”, Byrd was widely loved and respected. Although he carved out a modest solo career, if he had been associated with the writers, producers, and musicians at a label like Atlantic or Stax, today he would be remembered alongside the likes of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Solomon Burke. His bond with Brown was perhaps both blessing and curse, but their shared background, struggles, and successes made the bond nearly inevitable.
This according to “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing: Bobby Byrd (1934–2007)” by Alan Leeds (Wax poetics 26 [December/January 2007/2008] pp. 36–39.
Today is Byrd’s 80th birthday! Above, Bobby Byrd (center of trio) with Johnny Terry, Bobby Bennett, and James Brown at the Apollo Theater in 1964; below, with the JB All-Stars in 1989).
In 2005 Pat Metheny was alarmed by shortening attention spans and bite-sized media blips.
“The new form now is ringtones!” he exclaimed in an interview. “It went from a symphony to an album, then to singles, then edit your single, then four-bar loops, and now it’s down to one or two seconds.
In response Metheny created The way up, a CD comprising a single work that lasts over an hour. The guitarist described it as “a protest in the purest sense of the word—it offers an alternative, not just a shrill polemic…[the album] “is a reaction to a world where things are getting shorter, dumber, less interesting, less detailed, more predictable.”
“If you look at the whole history of the group, we’ve been totally interested in expansion in terms of form… It seemed like now was the time to go all the way and attempt to use the CD itself as a platform.”
This according to “The advancing guitarist” by David L. Adler (JazzTimes XXXV/2 [March 2005] pp. 36–42).
Today is Metheny’s 60th birthday! Below, the group plays the full work live in April 2005.
Levande Musikarv/Swedish Musical Heritage is an open-access Internet database of Swedish composers born at least 100 years ago, including biographies, work lists (with facsimiles of works no longer covered by copyright), bibliographies, and links to related material.
There is a hidden treasure trove of significant Swedish art music from the 1600s to the present; unfortunately, for various reasons many have been forgotten. Much of this music is only available in hard-to read-manuscripts, often in poor condition, with decaying paper, fading ink, and so on.
One of the other goals of the project is to produce critical editions of Swedish art music, helping it to become a vital part of our modern concert repertoire. There are great discoveries to make, not least among the works of women composers.
The database will eventually be bilingual in Swedish and English, in an effort to promote Swedish music abroad.
Below, the Drottningholms Barockensemble performs the sinfonia for flutes and strings in E minor, no. 22, by Johan Helmich Roman (1694–1758).
Pendragon Press launched the series Music in media in 2013 with A dimension of sound: Music in “The twilight zone” by Reba Wissner.
Wissner explores the Twilight zone series and offers multiple readings of the ways in which it used music, offering an understanding of the ways in which music—both original and stock—can be used in an anthology television show.
The book focuses both on the ways in which newly composed scores and stock music were used in the series and on how the music enhances and interacts with what we see and hear onscreen.
Below, an abridged version of The invaders (1961), one of Rod Serling’s favorite episodes; no words are spoken until the final scene.
US patent 7942311, granted 17 May 2011 to George Eapen of Frisco, Texas, describes a method for identifying sequenced flavor notes in a food product and developing a musical passage that represents or artistically relates to the tasting experience of the flavor notes. The passage is played and listened to concurrently with tasting the food product, thus producing a combined sensory experience.
The document includes data from a panel testing of a salsa verde flavored corn chip, which identified the flavor notes cilantro, tomatillo, lime, and an unspecified “spice flavor”. The inventor explains how these flavor notes can generate musical passages.
Eapen assigned rights to the patent to the corn chip giant Frito-Lay, presumably for its use in their marketing of corn chips.
This according to “Music to your tongue: In a bid for more emotional snacking, Frito-Lay patents culinary theme songs” by Marc Abrahams (BetaBoston 17 July 2014). Above, Eapen’s musical depiction of salsa verde flavor notes (click to enlarge); below, some of his related work for Frito-Lay, with cameos by The Black Eyed Peas.
The opera Vina (Guilt) by the Czech composer Otakar Zich (above, 1879–1934) was one of the most highly anticipated—and hotly debated—musical premieres at Prague’s National Theatre in 1922.
Composed between 1911 and 1915, Vina’s three-act score reflects many trends of its time, including a post-Wagnerian motivic web, lush Straussian orchestration, and quasi-tonal harmonic content derived mostly from a linear, contrapuntal texture.
Zich compiled the prose libretto from Jaroslav Hilbert’s 1896 play of the same name, an Ibsenesque parlor tragedy that retained its popularity for over a quarter-century. His compositional technique reaches its height during the heroine’s “letter without words”, a scene accompanied by a brilliant polytonal fugue for full orchestra.
Despite its many accomplishments, Zich’s Vina met with critical controversy after its premiere, provoking opposing forces to support or oppose musical modernism, which with this opera had firmly taken root in the Czech lands.
A new critical edition (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2014) increases Vina’s availability, enhancing the possibility of future performances of this historic work.
Below, Josef František Munclingr, Otakar Zich, Marie Veselá, Otakar Ostrčil, Emil Pollert, Marta Krásová, Jan Konstantin, and Miloslav Jeník preparing for the premiere of Vina.
Increasingly, young opera singers from all over the world are moving to Germany, drawn by the prospect of steady work—even full-time employment.
In 2013 Germany saw 7230 opera performances, one-third of the world’s total. German opera houses employ 1270 soloists and 2870 chorus members on full-time contracts.
An American soprano who will be joining the Deutsche Oper in Berlin next year says “There aren’t as many opportunities as there used to be for up-and-coming singers in the U.S. If you’re a lesser-known name, American opera houses often don’t take a chance on you because they need to sell tickets. When I return to the U.S., people will say ‘She must be good, she’s sung at the Deutsche Oper.’”
This according to “If you want to sing opera, learn German” by Elisabeth Braw (Newsweek 17 July 2014; online only).
Above and below, a recent German opera production that provided numerous employment opportunities.
John Cage’s 18 microtonal rāgas are found in Solo for voice 58 from Song books (1970).
To perform them, the dhrupad and experimental music specialist Amelia Cuni decided to apply experimental procedures to dhrupad vocalism and to elaborate her Indian music background in a new music context. She also wanted to explore an influential contemporary composer’s take on rāgas and step back from her personal involvement with the tradition and observe it from another perspective.
In collaboration with the Berliner Festspiele and several other contemporary music venues, Cuni’s interpretation of Solo for voice 58 was premiered in Berlin in 2006 and has been performed since then at several European and U.S. festivals.
This according to Cuni’s “Chance generated ragas in Solo for voice 58: A dhrupad singer performs John Cage” (Journal of the Indian Musicological Society XLI [2011–12] pp. 127–54).
Above, the tabla notation for the performance; below, a studio recording of Cuni’s realization. More about the work and Cuni’s version is here; a full live performance can be viewed here (the performance starts at 10:00).
Serge Koussevitsky was a tireless champion of contemporary American composers during his tenure at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Once he had decided on the value of a new work he was determined to program it, regardless of whether it was long, abstruse, dissonant, difficult to perform, or difficult to comprehend. Often he arranged for the major portion of the week’s rehearsal time to be devoted to perfecting the orchestra’s interpretation of the new work.
This according to “Serge Koussevitzky and the American composer” by Aaron Copland (The musical quarterly XXX/3 [July 1944] pp. 255–269); an appendix lists 123 American works that he programmed during his first 20 years in Boston.
Today is Koussevitsky’s 140th birthday! Above, the maestro celebrates his 74th at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss; below, his recording of Copland’s Appalachian spring.