Monday, August 23, 2010

MuseAmi - Developer Demo; also, New York Times story introduces company, transcription software innovation by pianist Robert Taub

The New York Times on Saturday (Aug 21) ran an interesting story about the possibility of recording handwritten sheet music drafts (like old one from before the days of computers) and also encoding music as it is played on a conventional instrument, all of this being possibly interesting to new composers (certainly building on what Cakewalk offers).

The story is "For Pianist, Software Is Replacing Sonatas", by James Barron, p C1 Saturday, with link here. It concerns pianist Robert Taub, who organized a startup company called "MuseAmi", with basic link (wesbite url) here, and a YouTune channel.

There's no question that something like this could be a boon for me to get music going again.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Schumann's treatment of Faust not the most impressive

Goethe’s Faust and the whole Faust story has been the inspiration of some of the most heaven storming Romantic music ever written. Gounod’s treatment, with the organ, is striking enough at the end; but my favorite is Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele, which I saw at the Washington Opera at the Kennedy Center in February 1996. The stunning (E Major) angelic chorus (with its “staircase theme”) occurs twice, once in the prologue and again as the epilogue, where “Satan whistles” just before the final massive choral triads. Samuel Ramey made a sensation of the Chorus of Warlocks and Witches from Act II, scene II), probably the most popular scene for many viewers (rather like Berlioz’s “March to the Scaffold”). Here’ s an old review

I was working on my first book at the time and the opera was quite an emotional stimulant.

Concert music has some of the best-known treatments of the Faust theme: namely, Franz Liszt’s Faust Symphony, with its male chorus use in the finale (usually a gay men’s chorus), joining the organ and orchestra for a truly apocalyptic close crashing down in C Major. Georg Solti, of the Chicago Symphony, has always pointed out that the second movement works only when played with absolute legato, just as on a piano. Then Mahler would treat us to the story not in the Second Symphony (the “Resurrection”) but the Eighth, the Symphony of a Thousand, which stays in E-flat and avoids progressive tonality, with a rousing chorus at the end, singing about the “eternal feminine” (the Rosenfels polarities) and a final orchestral close that overreaches itself.

So recently I rented a Netflix DVD of Robert Schumann’s treatment, an oratorio called “Scenes from Goethe’s Faust”, recorded in Germany in 1999 at the Amandus Church (in Freiberg, according to Google, link ), with the Stuttgart Philharmonic conducted by Frieder Bernius. The work was composed from 1844 to 1853, making the completed composition rather late in Schumann’s short life, troubled by manic-depression.

The D Minor overture is spunky, with a three note principle motive (typical Schumann) and a chromatic second them. There is an introduction, and a modified Sonata form with a truncated development and a long, somewhat mechanical D Major coda. But the writing is more mannered than Schumann’s best music (like the end of the Second Symphony). There are many choruses and arias, but the 100 minute work comes to a curious, even ambivalent and quiet close, in G, that seems disappointing to me, compared to most of Schumann’s music.

Here's a YouTube excerpt from the Schumann sung by The Tölzer Knabenchor.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"South Pacific" presented by PBS "Live from Lincoln Center"

On Wednesday Aug. 18, PBS Stations broadcast the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific” from the series “Live from Lincoln Center”, directed by Bartlett Star.

The story concerns an American nurse (Nellie Forbush, played by Kelli O’Hara) stationed on a South Pacific island during WWII, who meets an expatriated French estate owner (Emile de Becque, played by Paulo Szot) whom the US Navy wants to send on a spy mission against the Japs as a civilian.

But the score is well known for its “heterosexism” (“There Ain’t Nothin’ Like a Dame”), and a bachelor commander in his 50s (in the Navy, that’s interesting, given today’s political issues like “don’t ask don’t tell”), and a most likeable and scholarly young Marine Corps lieutenant Joe Cable, from Princeton NJ, who will eventually meet a tragic end. in an intelligence mission.

The website for the show is here  but it was timing out Wednesday night.

The 20th Century Fox film came out in the spring of 1958, when I was in 9th Grade, and was directed by Joshua Logan. As I recall, the film, after the overture, opened with “Bloody Mary”. In both the film and show, the “unit cohesion” among most of the sailors is evident, and Joe Cable tends to stand out as a little bit “special”. He sings "Only in Springtime" and later "You have to be carefully taught to hate", a remarkable song for 1950.  Cable eventually convinces the Frenchman to accompany him on the mission, that will turn the course of the War in the Pacific.  In the presentation tonight, Cable is played by a sleek and smooth replacement, Andrew Samonsky. I had a Capitol LP recording of the motion picture soundtrack in the late 1950s.

Alan Alda was the host on PBS. The show originally opened on Broadway in 1950.

In this version, the turnabout stage recreates the cluttered look of a Navy beachhead.

The orchestral overture is essentially a medley, but with some effective ninth chords and a touch of Ravel-like impressionism.

PBS has a video with a trailer for the show, here:

Watch the full episode. See more PBS Presents.

YouTube has a video comparing the show to the movie.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

America's Got Talent premiers opera prodigy and others

Several media outlets have shown 10 year old Jackie Evancho (from Pittsburgh) singing the aria "O mio babbino caro" ("Oh my dear papa") from Giacomo Puccini’s "Gianni Schicchi," on "America's Got Talent" (AGT). She was even challenged by reporters to ad lib live to prove that she wasn’t pantomiming.

Access Hollywood has a story, run on NBC Washington, “Susan Boyle WHO? 10-year-old Soprano Storms AGT”, here. 

America’s Got Talent’s YouTube audition video would not provide embedding, but is here

AGT did allow embedding of a guitar and song performance by Michael Grimm, 30, from Waveland, Mississippi, who describes his upbringing from poverty. His grandparents lost everything in Hurricane Katrina.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Speakeasy DC holds show and party at Town Disco

Tonight, I went to the Speakeasy DC for the first time, held at the Town DC Discotheque at 8th and U Sts. NW.

The theme for this evening’s session was “Curiosity Killed the Cat”

About ten speakers told funny stories, a couple of them centering around hidden diaries and fake diaries – on paper, the stuff of Victorian novels – and definitely the antithesis of blogging (call it anti-blogging). “Eric”, from Kansas City. (Eric also made an allusion to the movie “Rope”, and noted that student lockers in high school aren’t very secure.) The first of the speakers talked in about his education in the basics of life. There was vague stuff about how to divorce your parents.

The event served a buffet for $10, and there was an intermission after one hour. About 9:30, the show converted to “livewire” speeches that were limited to three minutes.

The Town DC property would be a good venue on other weeknights for screenplay readings with actors, or even “real indie” underground films. Good examples to look at: the Jungle Theater, and Bryant Lake Bowl, both in the Lake Street/Uptown area of Minneapolis.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Clay Aiken's concert "Tried, True, Live"

WETA in Washington ran a Clay Aiken concert tonight, called “Tried, True … Live”. The link for the concert with preview video is here.

Clay started the event with a wisecrack about “menopause” , but most of the concert was fairly low key with standard “popular” songs.

I liked the music he was singing a few years ago, after winning #2 on American Idol, on all those Good Morning America programs in New York. I particularly liked “Measure of a Man.”

Clay was studying to become a teacher, probably a special education teacher, before he won fame from Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest.

Clay Aiken came out as gay some time back, and attracted attention the surrogate parenting process with Jaymes Foster, with a sample story here.