Thursday, December 13, 2018

Music Modernization Act passed in October; public needs to become familiar with what it means (in terms of access to copyrighted content online)



Recently, in October, the president signed an “Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act” regarding the licensing of various music recordings, which George Thurnoyi describes in a blog post on the Library of Congress site here


Of some special controversy is the matter of recordings made before 1972. But it appears that bars and other venues can play these without a license. 

What is not clear is whether this would affect the continued availability of a lot of classical music on YouTube, which could also be challenged in practice if the EU Copyright Directive starts getting implemented in 2019.  It would not appear to have much practical effect on the commissioning of new works, which is controversial in some quarters.
  
Note the video above by Leonard French, copyright attorney.

Monday, December 10, 2018

61st Annual Christmas Candlelight Carols at First Baptist in Washington DC



The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC held its 61st Annual Christmas Candlelight Carols service at 4 PM EST Sunday December 9, 2018.

Kevin J. Biggins, Jr. was guest organist for some pieces.  Lon Screiber directed the full choir.

The organ prelude featured “In Dulci Jubilo” (BWV 729) by J.S. Bach, and Noel; Novelet’s adaptation of Michael McCabe’s “Now the Green Blade Riseth”.  Later, Keith Chapman’s “Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella”.

The Runnymede Singers performed “Ding Dong Merrily on High” (Lojeski) and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day: (Haman).


But there were three major works for combined church choirs.

Christmas Day”, by Gustav Holst, featured Deborah Miller as soprano and Alex Mc Keithen as bass. It ends quietly.

The “Alleluia” by Arthur Honneger featured modal harmonies and ended with a shout.
  
The other anthem was John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music”.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Gay Mens Chorus of Washington DC performs Holiday Show, pays tribute to LGBT people who serve in or are veterans of the military



The Washington DC Gay Men’s Chorus held its first “The Holiday Show” at the Lincoln Theater on U St. in Washington DC last night.

OK, yes, the beefcake pictures on p. 7 of the program are sexy. (The Blade has a wider shot on p. 30 of the Dec. 7 issue, including the orange tights.) You see a lot of this in Fort Lauderdale.  (Sorry, the pic is copyrighted.) 

The entire Gay Men’s Chorus was supplemented by subgroups: “Potomac Fever”, “Rock Creek Singers”, “Seasons of Love”, “GenOUT Chorus”, and “17th Street Dance”.

  
Part One emphasized some popular carols.  One of the most interesting was “Silver Bears” based on “Silver Bells” (the 2005 CBS Hallmark TV film which my late mother liked).  Then Potomac Fever continued with “Silent Night”, with Kevin Thomason as a soloist.  There followed a dialogue about (gays in the military) Army soldiers on watch in Afghanistan.  Then there was an adaptation “12 Days of Christmas/Africa” with a retrospect of volunteer (faith-based or university research) work in Africa, which reminded me of Jack Andraka’s summer in Sierra Leone as a Truman Scholar. It also reminded me of Trinity Presbyterian (Arlington – a congregation that gave an early warning in 2016 on the asylum seeker problem) and its youth projects every summer in Belize.
  
After the intermission, the GMC performed the only original classical work of the evening, the “Ad Amore” (a cappella) by Lee R. Kessleman, text by Dante Alighhierl. Soloist William Boyce followed with Stephen Schwartz’s “The Chanukah Song”.  Then speaker Romm Gastongay narrated “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as a tribute to veterans, and asked all veterans in the office to stand by service branch.  I did so as having been in the Army.  This seemed like a delayed tribute to the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” under Obama in 2011.  There was no direct reference to the issue of Trump’s attempted transgender ban in the military, but the indirect implication of the exercise is clear.
  
At the end, we passed another informal drag show in the Lincoln Theater lobby where GMCWDA sold CD’s, $20 cash a piece.  I’ll review one soon.

It is common for "Gay Mens Chorus" groups to record certain works with international orchestras, especially Liszt's "A Faust Symphony" and Shostakovich's Symphony #13. 

(Note: non-flash photo-taking without recording music was permitted.)

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Could 3-D printing of musical instruments help schools, and the disabled?




The Smithsonian Magazine reports that artist Kaitlyn Hova is working on a project to use (open source) 3-D printing of musical instruments, specifically to assist schools that have cut music budget programs for STEM (the successor of “no child left behind”, probably).

This would sound feasible with woodwind and maybe brass instruments.  I can’t imagine this with James Pavel Shawcross’s (Aug. 30) pianos and organs (although maybe his percussion could be printed).  However, the video below shows a 3-D printed melodica, which is a small keyboard instrument.

  
The article explains Hova’s synesthesia, where one sense stimulates another.  She “hears” colors (although that seems to bear on a discussion of perfect pitch (Nov. 29).

Thursday, December 06, 2018

"Battle Hymn of the Republic" at the funeral service for George H. W. Bush (via PBS)




Here is the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” from the funeral of George H. W. Bush today in Houston, TX, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.


Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics in 1861 to overlay “John Brown’s Body”.

The music was composed by William Steffe in 1856.  The key is B-flat Major.

When I was in Mixed Chorus in Ninth Grade at Swanson Junior High School in March 1958, we sung it at a festival of music with the combined choirs of all the middle schools at the time.  (We got the concert in before a blizzard a couple days later.)  The audience is invited to sing along the final refrain.

The music certainly reaches for the heavens, like the end of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.
 
The service also offered “Onward Christian Soldiers”, which sounds rather militant on the right today.  Bu that hymn was used near the end of the film “A Canterbury Tale” (Movies blog, March 15, 2011) to great effect (a music score which quoted the Third Symphony of Havergal Brian, also, as adopted by Allan Gray).

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Guitar teacher helps students with special needs, and a "dueling guitars" video goes viral




CBSNews has a story by Caitlin O’Kane about how Robert Mullen helps people with special needs by teaching music, especially guitar.


In this example, a young man with Down Syndrome plays guitar. In these “dueling guitars” (like the dueling banjos of “Deliverance”), with voice, the pair plays “Chasing Cars”.
  
There have been other reports here about music therapy and autism.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Why adults don't develop perfect pitch




Rick Beato explains why adults cannot develop perfect pitch.


The first thousand days of a child’s life (starting with conception) are critical for the developing brain’s ability to identify objects in a swarm of random occurrences.  Recognizing a pitch is similar to recognizing a color.  It is also comparable to recognizing a phoneme.

English uses only 44 out of about 2000 possible phonemes.  Tonal languages, common in the Orient, use more.  A child learning a tonal language is more likely to retain perfect pitch.  It is also well known that it is easier for children to become fluent in multiple languages simultaneously than it is for adults.  As children become teens, the brain starts "pruning" into what it will be good at. Beato's comments also invoke the advice that young children should not exposed to too much screen time with fast moving images. 
   
After about age three, musical training (ear training) will result in the development of relative pitch, but not perfect pitch.

Beato says that exposure of children to unpredictable music (jazz, because it is improvised, or Bach fugues, because of their chromaticism, or maybe some complex post-romantic and early modern music – not sure about Schoenberg or something like the Bruckner 5 finale – helps train a plastic brain to recognize pitches.

There has been some speculation as to whether the drug Valproate could assist adults in developing perfect pitch.

There is the idea that key signatures in classical music have “personalities”.  It is compromised by the fact that Baroque music was often pitched a half-step lower.  But Beethoven’s Fifth definitely belongs in C Minor, and the Ninth in D Minor.  Likewise, the Brahms symphonies have personalities very closely related to their keys (F Major is “pastoral”).

I felt that I had partial perfect pitch as a child, as I could usually identify the key signature of a previously unheard work (say a Haydn symphony because there are so many of them) on the radio.  

As an older adult, that seems lost.  Now, my brain sill sometimes perceive a piece as a whole step higher than it is, unless I “cheat” and am told the key.

I just tried the beginning and end of the Franz Lizst “ad nos” organ Fugue on YouTube.  The beginning sounds like C Minor to my ear, and the end is tricky:  The fugue is all over the place with modulations.  I fakes an ending in E Major before crashing back to C Major.  Is this the complexity Beato is looking for?  Or maybe the spooky B Minor Sonata, where all modern music starts?  (The modulations at the beginning are really un predicable.)