Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Music lessons with Apple Loops

Well, here I go, giving myself “piano lessons” – not exactly. I’ve starting to go through the Logic Express booklet on the Mac before deciding what score-management system (Sibelius or Finale) to get to carry on with my own music.

Yup, you can have fun with Apple Loops, -- that is, “Apple loops audio files” and “software instrument Apple Loops files” and combine these with original material in almost any fashion. 

My main interest is in recording and more professionally producing my piano works, and at least two orchestral scores. I hardly think pre-mixed clips will fit into my own plans. 

I suppose that when one buys Logic, one buys the right (from copyright perspective) to use these pre-mixed effects and thematic elements – but it’s “amateur mixing” of music that has become controversial in the fight over piracy, even though it’s probably fair use in many cases where a derivative work is created that is very transformative relative to the original (like a variations and fugue on someone else’s theme in classical music).
Here’s (first picture) what the first effort looks like. I can hardly protect it.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sermon discusses Mozart's Requiem, and makes points about content integrity relevant to copyright and i.p. debate today

Today, at the Cathedral of Hope (A Congregation of the United Church of Christ since 2007) in Dallas, Rev. Jo Hudson spoke about the suffix “Thine is the Kingdom” to the Lord’s Prayer, but what was interesting to me was how she applied a similar concept from the world of music to her sermon. 

She gave the example of the Mozart Requiem in D Minor, K 626.  It still strikes me today as one of the most energetic and moving requiems, sometimes even more so that the opulent romanticism of Verdi and Berlioz.  Actually, the Cherubini Requiem in the same key makes a good comparison. 

She mentioned the completion of the work by Franz Xaver Sussmayr, to make the point that an addendum to original source of any passage of literature or music does not detract from the integrity of the original. 

 She mentioned the Lacrimosa as a favorite passage, but it does appear that considerable portions, especially the concluding Agnus Dei, were composed by Sussmayr.  In fact, the Mozart  Requiem, as performed, perhaps is the only Requiem to end triumphantly (although in many requiems the Sanctus and Offertorium are rowdy and end loudly).

In fact, Mozart’s Requiem was commissioned by a count to commemorate the death of his wife, and the particular count was thought to try to claim credit for the music himself.  In Mozart’s day, composers usually could not compose and get music published with commissioning or subsidy from others, and often had to please “customers” with their work.  All of this seems to feed into the debate on copyright infringement raging today (as with SOPA on my main blog). 

Another great example of a musical completion is that of Puccini’s opera Turandot, by Franco Alfano, which sounds pretty seamless (and also triumphant).  I saw Turandot at the Dallas opera in 1980, right after Reagan’s election. I still remember the night. 

The Cathedral of Hope service today did include a wonderful offertory of its own, the cantata “To the Ends of the Earth”,  by Lowell Alexander (words Steve Amerson)  with Paul Mason as soloist, with the Sacntuary Chorus and Orchestra.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Music therapy can be helpful to Alzheimer's patients

Today, in teaching a Sunday School class at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, a physician mentioned the value of music sometimes reported in improving the lives of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The University of Kansas  (from which I got an MA in Math in 1966) has a study showing that patients otherwise regressing maintaining social function during music therapy sessions. Here is the Sage Journal abstract link

Here’s another piece on music palliation from Bryn Mayr College in Pennsylvania, link

Indeed, relation to music seems to be hard-wired into human genes: it’s the brain’s most important example of aggregating experience over time and creating emotion or sensation at the moment.

Assisted living centers and nursing homes often bring in musical performers, and this can be an important source of income for musicians (try this Facebook group). The tone of musical entertainment at the Jefferson (Arlington VA) when my mother was in rehab after a stroke in 2009 was quite light and comical, however. 

Music does not have to be that well-written or developed to stimulate.  I’ve noticed that in church services people will sing the same hymns in many verses, repeatedly, without becoming bored by the repetition.  That’s why sometimes it could be used for immoral purposes, as during the Third Reich (and the conscience of composers like Furtwangler and Richard Strauss could make for another blog post).

It was noted that only about 75% of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a staple of performed choral music for a century,  is actually Mormon. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

My D Minor Piano Sonata (1960): posted old manuscript posted online

As a step in reconstructing and rehabilitating the music I composed earlier in my life, I’ve uploaded by Piano Sonata #2, D Minor, composed at age 16 (around 1960), 27 pages, into Adobe image format, here.  It should be possible to view it on an iPad by page.

The Sonata is in three movements. The first is an “Allegro commodo”, d minor; the second is a Nocturne, Lento Placido, G Major; the third has a cadenza-like introduction in G Minor leading to a Rondo, D minor with episodes in B-flat and G Minor and a Picardy D Major, triumphant conclusion.  I see that I had blogged about this work Sept. 13, but I want to do a little of my own constructive criticism here.

In the first movement, the Development Section starts normally enough and progresses naturally through a variety of key sequences for about 26 measures, before turning violent and cadenza-like, hanging in oscillation between D minor and the dominant A Major for about 40 measures (although it varies tempo, from ¾ to 4/4 and even one measure in 5/4 before recapitulation.  Also, the opening measures seem like a reduction of the opening of the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto, as if to mock it.  Maybe that’s OK. I’ll come back to that.

The slow movement is in the subdominant G, a little unusual for a minor-keyed work, because it throws the second subject back to D Major.  I remember, when composing it, that I thought this was original, because so often composers go to the relative Major (here, F) too easily.

The introduction to the Rondo may seem rather conventional, but it is when I get to the Rondo itself that I have the most interesting problem. 

In Vivace 4/4 (really 12/8), there are two measures of a fugal subject in d minor, and then a switch to A minor to continue a fugal idea with a counter subject.  But experiments with Bach die here. Then I stay in an A major cadence here with the rest of the subject, sliding into a Hanon-like arpeggio structure.  But the rest of the opening subject (the next 12 measures) going from G minor through E-flat back to D minor seem logical enough.  The second subject (the rondo alternate) will become the big tune at the end and has a lot of embedded variety (I think there is a theme a little similar in the Tchaikovsky Concert Fantasy in G). When I return with the first subject, it becomes very abridged, and the second return of it morphs into a restatement of the cadenza-like violence at the end of the development in the first movement. 

Is this (letting the opening subject hand in the dominant key) trite?  A virtuoso pianist, dispassionate and cocky, could pull it off.  What appears to me now is that maybe I had a “duty” to continue the fugato. I could use this kind of harmonic scheme:  “ d d a a F# F# B Bg#f A f# a# A”.  But then the harmonic progression in the development section of the first movement ought to follow suit, so that the modulatory scheme matches the subject. Then, for the triumph on the coda finale, re-use this scheme, and come crashing down in D Major “FFF” only in the last two measures or so.  (I could also change the Rondo subject my simply alternating tonic and dominant, fugato style.)

I believe I performed the whole work, not fast enough, in the spring of 1960 to my second music teacher’s class in front of about 10 students, on her Baldwin piano in north Arlington.  I had a “girl friend” of sorts in the class who actually could make comments about the development sections – but I don’t think the criticism led to tonal monotony.  I think I played the second movement once in a recital (at a local church) that spring. With all my schoolwork as a high school junior (the hardest year), with a term paper on J F Cooper and Virginia's hardest US History teacher, I don't know how I had time to hand-scribe this manuscript. Did I do the work at the kitchen table, like I wrote term papers?  I don't recall now. 

My musical ear at the time was influenced by Sergei Rachmaninoff’s moody Piano Concerto #3, also in d minor.  That work tends to hang in keys for a while during virtuosity, particularly in the famous “ossia” candenza in the first movement, performed here on YouTube (link).   Readers may enjoy this musical analysis of both cadenzas.  At the time, I had the RCA Victor 1957 recording with Van Cliburn and Kondrashin conducting the Symphony of the Air, with the Ossia cadenza.  I didn’t find out that the lighter one was actually more often played (even by Rachmaninoff) until much later.  (In fact, the Ossia could almost function as a separate Op. 32 prelude, a bit like the concluding D-flat Prelude, which I did play in high school.) This evening I played a CD of a 1982 recording by Zoltan Kocsis with the San Francisco Symphony (Edo de Waart) on Philips, which uses the "lighter" one.

As for "hanging in the dominant", there are many other examples. For much of its first half, the Bach C Major 2-part invention is in dominant G. And some composers tend to overuse relative major when starting in minor.  The Chopin B-flat minor Scherzo has this problem, and actually ends in D-flat.  (Tchaikovsky solved that problem beautifully when he opened his first piano concerto with a favorite theme and got it out of his system.)

I have a manuscript of the 4 movement Third Sonata (in "C" major-minor), the first three movements composed in 1962, and the sketchier finale (in better shape than I thought) in 1974.  The finale needs one more theme to scoop up some momentum toward the end to justify its final outbursts.   I may post this work this way later.  But then I’ll have to get my work entered onto the MacBook, probably with Sibelius.
Automatic copyright  permission is granted for immediate downloading and saving of the manuscript for personal and informal use.  By the way, the PDF was created from a scanner at a FedEx Kinkos.  One employee told me she could not copy music (even my own), but I could do it myself on a scanner, which was slow. Another employee a different day was able to do it on a fast scanner as long as I stayed on the premises.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

New digital music publishing platform announced (Schott/EAM)

Project Schott New York (PSNY)  (associated with European American Music Distributors, or EAM) has announced its formation of a “digital music publishing edition” with this “about” link recently. It writes “Composers of today possess a self-producing capacity that is far beyond the capacities of any other era in the history of notated music.”  None of this would have happened without Steve Jobs (see movies blog, Nov. 3). 

Visitors will want to peruse the “Blog”  (most recent announcement Nov. 1), and especially the FAQ at the bottom of the home page to see how rental of scores for perusal works.  

This company will become a major resource in getting new music heard by more people.But the company is obviously selective about the works it accepts. Sometimes individual movements of works are published alone. 

Frank J. Oteri has a news story about the group on a web news site called “New Music Box” here  This is a bit down the pike for me, still.