Monday, August 27, 2012

A reprise visit to a Greenberg model railroad exhibit

I did visit to another “Greenberg’s Train and Toy Show” Sunday near Dulles Airport, in a Chantilly convention space off Route 28, more or less on the “Loudoun County Line”.

Most of the setups were not all that original, but two were really worthy of note. One was the “Washington, Maryland and Virginia Garden Layout”,  really large trainsets with the entire space filled in, rather than a central cavity for “railroad staff”.  And there was a lot of elevation change and a lot of topological complexity in the loops. 

The "National Capital Trackers" had a really long coal train (ironic, given what happened recently in Ellicott City, MD). 
That particular train had so many coal cars that it covered half the circular layout. 

There was also a “Z-Bend” layout, off to the side, with two side trunks, and then a separate “island” itself with a cross shape.  This is again more interesting than a circular ring around a control space.  Z is even smaller than “N”.  This layout had a “mountaintop removal” exhibit, and then an unspoiled plateau country at the other end.  Another branch led to “southwestern” scenery and featured a small drive-in cinema model showing a “Toy Story” movie.  The Z-Bend was the closest in concept to a model of a potential “real world”. 
This is some real country.  You can go hiking in it. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Washington DC Church presents tapes of Jimmy Carter Sunday school lessons from 1977

In August, 2012 the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC has offered, in the Fellowship Hall before the 11 PM service, “The 2012 August Forum Presentation of the Carter Tapes”.  These are tapes of Sunday school lessons given at the Church by Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1979 when he sometimes attended (at 16th and O Sts NW) while he was presdent.

The excerpts this morning came from Romans 7 and 8.

I do remember attending one such lesson (on the chapter on divorce) in the balcony of the Sanctuary in the spring of 1977 (I had been living in NYC at the time).

The Church has the console of the new organ from the Czech Republic on display, and is starting construction work on installation. 

The sermon this morning was delivered by Dr. James Langley, who talked about the paradoxes necessary to have sustainable freedom, and who mentioned the horrific irony of the "Arbeit macht frei" inscription at \the gate to Auschwitz, ironically mentioned also in the opening of my novel manuscript. 

Last picture: Note the slide rule.  Remember "slide rule accuracy" on physics tests in the 1950s? 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My quick visit to Tanglewood

Yesterday (Tuesday morning) I paid a visit to Tanglewood in Lenox MA, south of Pittsfield. The website for the Center is maintained by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, here, 

I had  first passed by Tanglewood University, didn’t know that it was distinct.

I bought a guest book souvenir that had some piano music on it that looks like Brahms, not sure what it is.  (A similar mural in Minneapolis near the Orchestra hall is Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit”).

I could hear two band groups rehearsing in an antiphony, the closing sections of the first movement of Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.  (My recording is on Philips with Dorati, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, paired with the “Deux Images”). The work has always struck me formally as like a five-movement symphony.  The Finale is quite rousing (actually concluding in a conventional Picardy F Major), and I can recall a high school chum claimed that for him, the closing of this work was the most exciting moment of classical music.

A couple of college age students worked there as receptionists.  One of them had an iPad open to a copy of some handwritten music, piano staff, maybe his, music with some linear scalar themes.  

In the video above, one group seemed to be rehearsing under the main concert stand; the other off behind a house, toward the Berkshires; not sure where it was. 
As you drive south on Route 7 into NW Connecticut, the scenery does indeed get interesting.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Composer Scott Wollschleger; some notes about Respighi

I learned of another young American composer, Scott Wollschleger, 32, and explored a few of his piano pieces at his main site (music link), (website url) here

His music link offers scores and mp3 files for a lot of his piano pieces.  Some are published through Project Schott.  At least one was handwritten.

I tried the MP3 files of three compositions.  The largest was the four movement suite “In Search of Lost Color”, each piece about 3 minutes, with a fast-slow-fast-slow pattern.  I also tried “Secret Machines No. 6” and “Blue Inscription”, for which he provides some notes.  The writing seems impressionistic, and a bit episodic, rather than developmental, with sounds accumulating and then dissipating, like rain showers.
I also wanted to make a comment about Ottorino Respighi and his “Roman Trilogy”, particularly the notorious piece “Roman Festivals” (or “Feste Tomane”).  Composer Timo Andres made some interesting observations about it recently here
Back round 1962, I used to visit the home and enormous stereo and open reel tape collection of Chip Hailey (who passed away suddenly in late 2011) in Falls Church VA, in the days when a Girard Changer was almost state of the art.  He had an Everest recording (performed by Goosens and the London Symphony) of the Festivals, which took a whole two sides, but this was a show piece, in the days when Everest and Command promoted their “35 mm direct tape to record” vinyl recordings.  The “Roman Festivals” was one of Chip’s favorite pieces, maybe because it was one of the loudest.  My current CD of the Trilogy is Mariner on Phillips.

That’s far from all.  In our Wednesday afternoon classes when I took piano lessons in the 50s, “The Fountains of Rome” ( a tamer piece) was one of the ear training samples.

And, during my senior year of high school, a friend in the Science Honor Society promoted the ascetic virtues of Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances for the Lute”, particularly during that wonderful Memorial Day weekend sojourn to Mt. Washington. 

And, oh yes, Eduard Tubin did compose a concerto for balalaika (available on BIS). 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Wisconsin incident: Music can be misused

I haven’t reported before on this blog about the use of music to propagate a negative political or social message.  However, the media is heavily reporting about the activity of Wade Michael Page in white supremacy music, apparently running a fake “punk rock” band.

CNN has an embeddable video report on the problem (2 min) with Drew Griffin   (and Wolf Blitzer) reporting. CNN has it is a “multimillion dollar industry” but Page did not make money off of it, as he worked small jobs (and got fired from some of them).  Warning: the video does have a very brief excerpt for reporting purposes; the lyrics are offensive.

This sort of "art" is protected by the First Amendment in the US, but not in Europe, where it is banned in most countries.  
Classical music has been misused in the past.  History has many clips of Hitler’s misuse of Wagner and Beethoven in the 1930s, although more of the music at rallies tended to be simplistic “patriotic” marches.  
 The Soviet Union tried to force its composers (particularly Shostakovich) to remain politically correct. Some critics say that the ending of the Fifth Symphony sounds hollow and rhetorical for that reason. (Try the end of the Prokofiev Op 111 for something original.)

In fact, the Soviet National Anthem is quite stirring, and appears at the midpoint of the 1982 epic film “Reds”.  Listen to the Red Army Choir sing it on YouTube, here

I even remember, during my first “experience” in my New York City apartment back in the 1970s, the processional music from Mussorgsky’s Boris Gudonov was playing on my stereo.
Perhaps we need a better National Anthem, not one where the first phrase has to be repeated. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

"One Night With Janice Joplin": a reprise of the good old days

The Allen Theater in the Cleveland Playhouse on Euclid St. airs “One Night With Janice Jopilin” with Mary Bridget Davies playing Janice, singing and with monologues.  Here is the Playhouse link.

On Sunday night, the show is early, and I arrived, randomly, just two minutes late for the box office computer to sell me a ticket.  Nevertheless, there is a log on YouTube that displays Janice’s lifetime or work. Some of the songs, which recall my own boyhood summers in Ohio in the 50s are “One Night Stand”, “To Love Somebody”, “Me and Boby McG” (like the TV thriller director?), and “Piece of My Heart”.  No, there's no "Long Tall SallY", like we used to play in farmhouse. That was pre-draft Elvis. talks with Randy Johnson and Davies on YouTube here.

Of course, the run of the Janice Joplin reprise echoes the presence of the huge "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" (or "Rock Hall") the Erie lakefront, link

Below: Playhouse Row on Euclid Street, Cleveland's theater district.

And "Cork's" restaurant and bar is right there for theater goers.
Cleveland has come a long way in recent years, but (like Detroit and other rust belt cities) it really needs the "new economy":  sports, high tech, media, movies, arts, and health care for Canadians on waiting lists. All of these. most of all the latter, can generate new kinds of jobs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Petra Anderson, from the Colorado Incident, is a composer and musician

One of the surviving (and "overcoming") victims of the Colorado tragedy, Petra Anderson, is a composer and has studied at the University of the Pacific.

Here website and list of compositions can be found here

Short excerpts of several compositions can be played online.  They include “If You Are Able” and “Colloquy for Woodwind Quintet”.

The media has explained how she survived the wound because on an unusual structural formation in her brain.  She is now recovering with the help of music therapy. Sanjay Gupta on CNN has the best explanation, here.

This story of a young musician definitely bears following.Perhaps there will be some synergies with other musicians around the country in the future.