Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is Mozart's music specifically helpful in treating autism?

Tuesday, April 6, NBC4 in Washington DC presented a report on a family that says that its daughter was successfully brought out of autism by “Auditory Integration Training” comprising in some part listening to the music of (W.A.) Mozart.  The news story talked about Mozart’s “songs” which sounds like an inappropriate terminology in most cases. The claim was that the wide range of frequencies in the music helped the girl listen to sounds she was hearing. 

The story mentioned a more specific type of experiece called "Lollipop Listening Therapy". The website for this treatment seems to be here

“Auditory Integration Training” has this site. Is the term interchangeable with "Auditory Integration Therapy"?

I recall a friend early in my college years (those lost William and Mary days in 1961) who said that Mozart had composed “the real music” because his music “makes sense”.  There is a certain sense of logic to it that is unique, in almost every symphony, concerto, opera, and the like – which makes the effect, say, of the (catastrophic but major-keyed) ending of “Don Giovanni” or the Requiem so powerful.  Could that be the key to success of the treatment?

One could ask the same thing about Beethoven. What’s the effect of the late quartets, or say the Op. 111 Piano Sonata?

In fact, the mother Sharon Ruben has a book “Awakening Ashley: Mozart Knocks Autism on its Ear”, publisher iUniverse,  Amazon link here

The NBC-Washington story was not yet available online as of this writing. 

Autism is much more common in males than females.  "Asperger's Syndrome" is considered an autism spectrum "disorder", but in the mildest forms, there's a good question to whether it should be.  "Loners" who maintain a certain social distance sometimes accomplish great things. 

While writing this posting, I played the little orchestral suite from Mozart's "Idomeneo", K. 366.  By the K300's. Mozart's mature kind of pathos (as in the E-flat Sinfonia Concertante).  That William and Marry friend gave me an old record of the B-flat Cassation (K 99) and the early D Major Divertimento.  He thought that was part of the "real music".  He also said nobody should play Beethoven until he was 30. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Andrew Lunsford: "The Accidental Tenor"

Saturday afternoon, CNN’s Ali Velshi (on CNN Money) aired the story of Andrew Lunsford, who at 30 won a voice competition (in the National Association of Teachers Singing Competition in 2009) and also the Denver Lyric Opera Guild Competition and now attends the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University (link).

He has his own account of this here.

Here is CNN’s account of “The Accidental Tenor”.   This is a "second career", as the story indicates; he moved his family from Colorado to Bloomington, IN.  

Second picture: I found a roll of my late Mother's film, and this seems to be from a trip to Madrid 10 years ago. I'll try to use the ones I can salvage!

Indiana University is also where composer Tudor Dominik Maican attends college, but as a biochemistry major, as I recall, from what he told me in 2009. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

I "recovered" my earliest lost manuscripts with Casio and Logic Express on the Mac

Recently, I keyed in the “lost manuscripts” of two of my earliest compositions into my Casio Digital Piano hooked up to my Apple Mac PowerBook through USB, using Logic 9 Express.  I “reconstructed” the four movements of an F Major Sonatina (age 13), and the first movement and Minuet of the A Major Sonata (Age 15).

Both pieces sound perfunctory, in a way that can be oddly effective. The A Major opens with a scale, in dotted rhythms, over an alberti bass; the scale then simply returns downward as an answer, as if a kind of dialogue (or maybe soliloquy).

A chum at William and Mary that fall of 1961 said “he knew” when he heard the A Major theme in a piano practice room over in the old Ewell Hall (at the time, to the left of the Wren Building).  He claimed he played it for friends, by ear, while home for Christmas in California. It’s funny how these tall tales stick.

I put the keyboard on a metal table, and the computer behind it. Haven’t assembled the kit yet.

One thing, though: Logic has a way of assuming everything is in 4/4 time, even a Minuet, and making it look like your music has a lot of “accidental” polytonality.  It doesn’t get the enharmonics right.  But maybe that’s a matter of steady playing.  I still think it was be pretty hard to play an Op. 111 well on a digital piano.

Good work last Sunday at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington for the Youth choral concert, joining forces with a group from Ardmore, PA. 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

"DADT repeal" service inspires a jazz concert

Today, at a “service” celebrating the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”  at an Arlington VA Unitarian church (see my GLBT blog today), several groups presented mostly New Orleans jazz music in what made the service partially a concert.


The opening improvisations were provided by Nguyen Nguyen and Friends, and the choral song “Everything Possible” by Fred Small was sung a cappella.  But the main musical attraction occurred as the New Orleans Second Line Dixieland Direct Jazz Band marched with the “funeral cortege” for the parchment of the DADT policy, playing a variety of improvisations and ending with “All the Saints come marching in.”

I used to hear that improvisation is the heart of jazz, which always seemed anti-emotional to me. That is until composers like Gershwin mixed it with classical postromantic idioms. One of the best examples of this blend occurs in Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphony #2” called the “Age of Anxiety”, which is almost a piano concerto. I played Bernstein’s own DG recording the other day. The work is in six sections, but the first three sections (a dirge theme followed by variations which develop the theme in almost sonata-like fashion, ending in a violent climax) comprise what would normally be a “first movement”. The fourth section ("The Dirge") is totally dodecaphonic, and functions as the “slow movement”, building twelve tone chords in a manner reminiscent of Alban Berg’s “Lulu”.  The fifth section ("The Masque") is a “scherzo” and sounds a lot like improvised Dixieland jazz, just as in this event. The last section ("The Epilogue" a la Sir Arnold Bax) is a majestic slow movement, with the piano appearing only at the end, inspired it seems by both Copland’s Third Symphony and the triumphant slow movement conclusion of Mahler’s Third (since Bernstein became a great exponent of many of the lesser played Mahler symphonies, following Bruno Walter). The work ends in glory, with fortissimo seventh and ninth chords (I think based on D-flat major), sounding strangely conclusive in dissonance, mixing jazz and post-romanticism in the same moments.

As I parked for the event, Sirius XM on my car radio played Bruno Mars “Just the Way You Are”.  It sounded fitting.  And the burial of the DADT parchment reminded me of the sea burial at the end of Benjamin Britten’s “Billy Budd”, an opera which curiously anticipates some of the social issues that led to “don’t ask don’t tell”