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Featured Articles:8-15-14

Back to School with Franz Schubert 

 Schubert chooses the last week of his short life to start taking counterpoint lessons

Erik Satie, the Individual

Erik Satie
 Don't your fingers get tired?

A question and answer page for the curious...

a column about the music of people's lives
this is supposed to be a picture of some dude playing the piano in front of a stained glass window!
 Wedding pages
These are some of my former piano students from Baltimore. Can't see them? sorry about that.
 for students:
 Musical Games 

 Erasmus's blog:
In Praise of Chicken

 Mike's Ballpark
 hotdog review

The Global
Hall of Fame

This week's featured recording:

Sonata Hob. 9 in F: I. Allegro  By Franz Joseph Haydn

This may be the most powdered wiggish of Haydn's early sonatas. If you ever needed a portrait of 18th century Austrian aristocracy in music, this may be it. And, oddly enough, Haydn was probably not yet working for a prince when he wrote it (but he may have been trying to get his foot in the door!) In the meantime, the 26 year old composer might have had to be content working for a mere count. Which is a lot better than starving, or freelancing, or both, which had been his lot up to this point. So if a little joy of life, or relief, leaks out from the frilly edges of this well-coiffeured sonata movement, we can forgive him.

Hey! It's an organ recital!

Which is way better than a colonoscopy!

...ok, my PR person is sick at the moment so that's the best I could come up with. But you'll definitely want to be at Faith United Methodist Church, 1719 S. Prospect Rd, Champaign, Illinois, USA at 3pm on Sunday, October 26th for a very unusual, and entertaining, look at our newly refinished console and all the bells and whistles thereof. I'll be joined by all kinds of strange persons and play all sorts of fascinating music on said organ, accompanied by jazz saxophone, congas, violin, and narrator. And myself. (but you have to come to the concert to see how I'm going to manage to do that) Details in the blog box at right, under the title look out! it's an organ recital!

New on the Blog
While I'm on late summer semi-vacation from parts of this blog, here is the Friday series on the organ repairs at Faith UMC, including an introduction to this fascinating instrument and its history, and backstage tours of the pipe room and a shop where pipe organs are built.


Articles from around the pianoverse....

Sandwich Artist   an essay from 2003

Depending on who you talk to, the 40 foot sculpture in front of Baltimore's Penn Station is either a work of art or an expensive abomination. The work is called "Male/female," and it's both, which probably already tells you why it is very disturbing to many people.  The work's size and location put it in company with some other very large civic works of "art" which have caused similar outcries in other major metropolitan areas.

I grew up in the Cleveland area, and one of the relics of my childhood was a piece of art called "free stamp." It is, in essence, a very large rubber stamp, turned on its side, with the word "free" on the bottom. If the Statue of Liberty, say, were trying to get that book of hers renewed at the local library, and Godzilla's much larger great aunt was the librarian, she might use that bit of art to stamp the back jacket of the book with the word "free." Surprisingly, most Clevelanders could find no use for the thing. And so when it was first installed in front of a very public building downtown a great howl of protest came in from all sides--or at least from the ones who do not regularly visit art museums, and were not happy at all when part of the museum came to them.

This is most people, in fact. Since the free stamp was basically a really gigantic representation of a common item, there was a great deal of head scratching over how such a trivial piece of hardware could be rendered so much larger than life and plopped in front of a public building in the middle of downtown. If I remember correctly, the artist who wore out his fertile brain coming up with the design had also been responsible for, oh, a gigantic stapler in Chicago or a huge paperclip in Toronto. Don't quote me on it, but it was something to that effect. His medium, if you will, was taking common household objects, supersizing them, and leaving them in very public places. This type of thing has been quite trendy in the art world over the last half-century, and a lot of people will tell you that these so-called artists have quite simply lost their marbles.

 (read more)


Is Music Theory Really Necessary?

The term music theory may not be something you want to drop into casual conversation at your next party. For some musically inclined persons, it has all the charm of a cuss word and none of the vitality. It means a bunch of difficult and arcane rules that don't seem to have any relevance to actually playing music, not to mention creating your own. For many, it is just a bunch of complicated procedures that they can't seem to understand, and this only leads to frustration. It is thought by composers to be the chief stifler of inspiration. Composers often like to use it as a punching bag. And they may have a point. Notwithstanding personality issues--and, believe me, many of my own theory professors did not seem like the most interesting people in the world (at least until I got to grad school)--the things that we theory types teach (for I have also been an instructor of bored college students like myself and I have vowed not to be as dull as my own mentors) seem mostly concerned with music of past centuries, and to dwell forever in trifling details. Surely the composers themselves didn't think of their music this way--as an homage to the inviolable past, and as an exercise in trying not to do what you weren't allowed to do?   Many have suggested, in fact, that the inspiration of the gifted creator came first and brought in its wake a host of critics and persons determined to justify and explain the music once it was safely non-controversial, and arguably no longer relevant to the mental and emotional climate in which it is performed--when it became a museum piece rather than an artistic response to the here and now. These persons, the line goes, are just draining all the joy out of music. I don't intend to defend people who actually do this, or who substitute analysis for actual music making--merely to suggest that trying to picture theory as a bunch of useless rules and musical creation as an act of complete freedom whereby no knowledge or mastery of anything is necessary--this too is asking for trouble.

I don't believe that the majority of good composers have little or no grasp of some kind of theory, simply that it may not resemble the kind we teach in school. (read more)



from the department of "Godmusic" --  under "other blogs"

Cable news has been telling us this week that "the world is burning." I guess it's time for us all to go up on our rooftops and wait for the end. Just like the last time:

Days of Noah (December 2012)

If the History Channel has been getting it right these last few years, this will be my last article. It has been a pleasure writing for you. Now we go up on our rooftops and wait for the world to end.

According to the Mayans, says the television, December 21st of this year is the end of the third epic cycle of the calendar, and will usher in the end of the world. Nice knowing you.

Maybe it isn’t nice to sound skeptical about these things, but this has got to be about the 8 billionth time just in my lifetime that somebody somewhere said the world was going to end, so if it does, I have to say, I’ll be a little bit surprised. To apocolyptics, however, this is just part of the formula. Just you wait and see, they’ll tell us: (read more)




Friendship, Limited
from November, 2011

While I’ve been on sabbatical (from this section of the website) a number of momentous things have been happening. One was a Supreme Court decision that allowed corporate money to flow unhindered into political campaigns, because “corporations are people.” More recently, that slogan has been picked up by a Republican presidential candidate and used as an example of how things ought to be in the land of the free.

Arguing against the logic or wisdom of this ruling is unrewarding; it often earns labels like Radical Socialist and/or Free-Enterprise Hater and other fun names; although sometimes the ridicule is limited to “you just hate anybody who makes a profit.” I protest at the outset that I have nothing against corporations. Some of my best friends are corporations.

In fact, I was talking to one of them the other day. I called to ask him about some of the issues of the day, the way you would naturally jaw with a buddy over lunch. (read more)


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