Di Meola and Vizzini


The music on Al Di Meola’s 1998 album The infinite desire was largely inspired by the work of the Venetian painter Andrea Vizzini.

“We had books of his collections laying around the studio,” Di Meola said in an interview, “and all of the musicians involved would periodically glance through them for inspiration. Even people who aren’t normally versed in art are moved by his work.”

“He’s about fifty and showed up at one of my shows last year when we played outside Venice. I was really moved that he was gassed by the music! He’s actually painting to my music right now, so we’re planning some exhibitions at some point down the road.”

This according to “Al Di Meola: Art imitating art” by Bret Primack (JazzTimes XXVIII/10 [December 1998] pp. 88–90, 201–202).

Today is Di Meola’s 60th birthday! Above, Vizzini’s cover for the album (click to enlarge); below, Di Meola’s Vizzini (a track from the album) with a slideshow of the artist’s work.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jazz and blues, Visual art

A Springsteen archive

Springsteen report card

Founded in 2014, blindedbythelight.com is an online museum displaying more than 300 pieces of Bruce Springsteen memorabilia. Admission is $9.99, which allows a month of access to the site, the ability to download a font that replicates Mr. Springsteen’s handwriting style, the use of a ticket and memorabilia exchange, and entry to a monthly raffle. Mr. Springsteen has no formal involvement with the site.

Above, the museum’s reproduction of The Boss’s 8th-grade report card (click to enlarge; note that F stands for Fair). Below, Springsteen performs Blinded by the light in 2009.

Related article: A Springsteen resource

Leave a comment

Filed under Popular music, Resources

iPhone ocarinas and stress recovery

iPhone ocarina

In an experiment, 54 participants were instructed to play Twinkle, twinkle, little star using the Smule ocarina app on the iPhone, which involved blowing into the microphone of the iPhone and placing fingers on the screen to produce different notes.

One week after receiving instruction, the participants were randomly assigned to either an acute-stress induction procedure or a no-stress control group. The acute-stress group exhibited elevations in levels of cortisol as well as negative mood and arousal (as measured by two self-report measures of mood and arousal), compared to the no-stress group.

Participants in both groups were subsequently randomly assigned to one of three 10-minute-long activities: playing or listening to Twinkle, twinkle, little star on the iPhone ocarina or sitting in silence. Participants who had undergone the stress-inducing procedure and who played or listened to the ocarina during the stress-recovery period showed significant decreases in cortisol levels compared to those who sat in silence. However, as expected, participants in the no-stress group who played the iPhone ocarina showed significant increases in cortisol levels relative to participants who listened to it or sat in silence.

This according to “Effects of individual music playing and music listening on acute-stress recovery/Les effets du jeu et de l’écoute musicale sur le rétablissement d’un individu la suite d’un stress aigu” by Gabriela Ilie and Ramen Rehana (Canadian journal of music therapy/Revue canadienne de musicothérapie XIX/1 [2013] pp. 23–46).

Above and below, the iPhone ocarina in action.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curiosities, Instruments, Science

Prince and female desire


In the song When doves cry, Prince’s attempts to elicit female desire are traced according to three codes found in the lyrics: the “normal” code of male sexuality common in rock music, an unusually explicit “Oedipal” code, and an “uncanny” code.

The uncanny code constitutes a counter-code to the usual male-oriented sexuality of rock music and represents an attempt to elicit a non-stereotypical female sexuality—female desire outside of the male sexual economy.

This according to “Purple passion: Images of female desire in When doves cry” by Nancy J. Holland (Cultural critique X [fall 1988] pp. 89–98).

When doves cry is 30 years old this year, as is the film that showcased it, Purple rain. Above, a still from the film. Below, Patti Smith’s cover of When doves cry; the lyrics are here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Popular music, Women's studies

Der Spiegel von Arkadien

Der Spiegel von Arkadien

Franz Xaver Süßmayr (1766–1803) launched a career as one of the most respected German opera composers of the time with the success of Der Spiegel von Arkadien.

The critical reception was almost uniformly enthusiastic; the score was even compared to that of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, rare praise for the time. Indeed, in the musical high points Süßmayr appears to have benefited from his direct knowledge of Mozart’s technique, which is also apparent in Süßmayr’s completion of the master’s Requiem.

Premiering on 14 November 1794, Der Spiegel von Arkadien had over 65 performances in its first year alone. It was performed all over Europe, both in the original German and in several translations, and was revived regularly for over 30 years. The enduring performance history attests to some extraordinarily beautiful, inspired music in Süßmayr’s score, music that has been neglected far too long.

This according to a new two-volume critical edition of the work, edited with commentary by David J. Buch (Recent researches in music of the Classical era, 93–94; Middleton: A-R editions, 2014). Below, the opera’s overture.

Leave a comment

Filed under New editions, Opera

Music on bones

music on bones

In 1946 Stanislav Filon, a young Soviet engineer, brought a record-cutting machine home from the front as a war trophy and used it to start a business in Leningrad.

By day, Filon recorded the voices of customers on industrial plastic discs; by night, he and his friends made pirate copies of records of foreign jazz and popular music.

Since the plastic discs were expensive and scarce, they experimented with alternatives, finally settling on abundantly available and virtually free used medical X-rays. These pirate copies were widely known as музыка на костях (muzyka na kostâh, music on bones).

This according to “Acoustic palimpsests and the politics of listening” by J.Martin Daughtry (Music and politics VII/1 [winter 2013] 35 p.). Above, St. Louis blues on a skull; below, a different kind of music on bones.

Leave a comment

Filed under Curiosities, Politics

A new analysis resource


www.Vmus.net: Online platform for musical performance studies is a free online resource that provides tools that enable any Internet user to analyze sound files and obtain waveforms, spectrograms, tempo-dynamic curves, and performance data by simply clicking a few buttons. Only a login is required.

Above, the site’s imaging of the opening bars of the overture to Bizet’s Carmen; below, a demonstration of some of this resource’s capabilities.

Leave a comment

Filed under Analysis, Resources

Janáček and speech melodies


Leoš Janáček based vocal melodies in his operas on the concept of nápěvky mluvy (speech melodies)—patterns of speech intonation as they relate to psychological conditions—rather than on a strictly musical basis. He used such melodic motives, characterizing a specific person in a specific dramatic situation, in both vocal and orchestral parts, enabling him to integrate the two parts into a compact unit for the utmost dramatic effect.

This according to “Význam nápěvků pro Janáčkovu operní tvorbu” (The significance of speech melodies in Janáček’s operas) by Milena Černohorská, an essay included in Leoš Janáček a soudobá hudba (Leoš Janáček and contemporary music; Praha: Panton, 1963, pp. 77–80).

Janáček found the source of speech melodies in spoken phrases of people of various social and cultural backgrounds, recorded in real-life situations. During his ethnomusicological research in Moravia and Slovakia in 1920s, Janáček not only recorded songs and music, but also wrote down the melodies of dialogue fragments and of singers’ comments on specific songs.

Recently discovered autographs of Janáček’s fieldwork notes in the collection of the Etnologický ústav AV ČR, pracovišťě Brno with transcriptions of nápěvky mluvy were published in Janáčkovy záznamy hudebního a tanečního folkloru. I: Komentáře (Janáček´s records of traditional music and dances: I. Commentaries) by Jarmila Procházková (Brno: Etnologický ústav AV ČR, 2006).

Today is Janáček’s 160th birthday! Above, examples of nápěvky mluvy that he transcribed in Čičmany, Slovakia, on 20 August 1911; below, the finale of his Jenůfa, a work often cited for its use of the speech-melody concept.

Leave a comment

Filed under Opera, Romantic era


Ennio Morricone-FilmMusik

In 2014 Edition text + kritik launched the series FilmMusik with Ennio Morricone, a collection of essays edited by Guido Heldt, Tarek Krohn, Peter Moormann, and Willem Strank. Compiled in the year of Morricone’s 85th birthday, the book encompasses traditional readings of his music as well as new perspectives on it.

Morricone became famous in the 1960s as the composer of the music for Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Their unconventional sound is, however, only one aspect of his multifaceted work, which—in addition to more than 500 film and television scores—also includes classical orchestral music, avant-garde jazz, electronic music, and borrowings from contemporary pop music styles. The book explores the full diversity of Morricone’s oeuvre and lets the maestro speak for himself in an exclusive interview.

Below, an excerpt from Giuseppe Tornatore’s Malèna (2000), one of five of Morricone’s Oscar-nominated film scores (he received an honorary Oscar in 2007).

Leave a comment

Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Film music, New series

The Pied Piper and his clarinet


The German town of Hameln continues to re-enact the legend of the Rattenfänger, known in English as the Pied Piper, each weekend during the summer. A number of musicians have assumed the role of the piper since the 1950s, playing flute, oboe, or clarinet.

Since 1979 the role of the Rattenfänger has been played by the Pennsylvania-born clarinetist Michael Boyer, who performs on one of two U.S.-made metal clarinets: a Gladiator model from the 1930s or an American Standard model from the 1920s, both made by the H.N. White company of Cleveland, Ohio.

This according to “Hamelin’s Pied Piper: An unexpected American connection” by James Gillespie (The clarinet XLI/3 [June 2014] pp. 56–60). Above and below, Mr. Boyer’s summer job.

1 Comment

Filed under Curiosities, Instruments, Literature