Sunday, February 23, 2020

A composer and lawyer generated all possible melodies on a hard drive to make a point about copyright law and music

Adam Neely interviews Samien Ruhl and Noah Rubin, who made a Ted Talk about generating every possible melody (68.7 billion of them) and putting them on a solid state hard drive.

The melodies were generated by a brute force process, based on pitch classes to the power of the number of notes in a melody (88 ** 10).
The exercise is a proof-of-concept trying to show the logical absurdity of copyright lawsuits threatening musicians for taking another’s melody.  There is an issue as to whether the offending composer “heard” the other melody before (had “access”), but if the plaintiff has 3 million views or more it is presumed the defendant should have heard it. The specific case involves” Dark Horse” infringing on “Joyful Noise”.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Playing a violin during brain surgery

A woman plays the violin during brain surgery.

She is kept away and occupied to prevent damage to her motor skills. The operation, to remove a benign brain tumor, occurred in the UK.   I couldn't identify the music, it sounded "populaire". 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sam Cushing demonstrates how a pianist stays physically fit

Sam Cushing, in a Chicago apartment and gym, demonstrates "I play piano and workout my chest."

The black varnished grand piano sounds a little out of tune as he plays a popular song (and I can’t identify it). 

Then he goes to a local gym and does some simple stuff – you would have to get permission to film yourself there. 

He says he got out of bed wrong, so he starts his day well – he has a “cold”.  Nobody was worried about that even last December. 
He seems like a good role model. Or maybe the hero for Richard Strauss's tone poem (previous post). 

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Is Strauss's "A Hero's Life" a morally unacceptable monument to the self in these Trumpian times?

I thought I would share “A Hero’s Life”, or "Ein Heldenleben", by Richard Strauss (1864-1949), composed in 1898.

This is a long tone poem, in six sections, in the key of E-flat major.  Over the years, critics have “complained” that the tone poem, as program music, is about Richard Strauss himself as the hero.  

The Hero has adversaries, a companion (female?), in battle as a warrior, then as a peacemaker, and then in retirement.  The work ends after one swell that dies down on an E-flat chord.

So is this music objectionable in today’s woke world as too self-centered and Trumpian?

Andres Orozco-Estrada conducts the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.

I’ve owned a vinyl recording on Everest (Goosens) and a London CD. 
Somehow I remember this music playing in my mind when I read Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”. 

Sunday, February 02, 2020

The oldest piano in existence

Here’s a quick video showing the playing of the oldest piano in existence, built in the 1720s, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Bartolomero Cristofori manufactured this “pianoforte” in an attempt to improve the harpsichord according to WQXR host Jeff Sturgeon.

The music sounds like Scarlatti.

I think there is a piano like this at Monticello in Charlottesville.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Grieg Piano Sonata in E Minor played by Glenn Gould

Glenn Gould plays the Piano Sonata in E Minor, Op. 7, of Edward Grieg.

His tempos are SLOW!, most of all in the Minuetto.

The passagework doesn’t display the rhythmic inventiveness or harmonic surprises that you expect, say, in some of the early Beethoven sonatas.

The overall mood resembles the Piano Concerto.  The finale has a “big tune” in E Major to close the work that is indeed heroic (almost on the scale of the Liszt B Minor Grandioso theme)  and I think is used as a Lutheran church hymn today (I don’t recall which words). Like I think I heard it sung when I lived in Minneapolis.

Did Grieg really want this to be orchestrated as a symphony?  

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Is Wagner (especially) tainted by association with Nazism?

Is some classical music by German composers “tainted” by association with Nazism and Adolf Hitler?
The question is most often asked about Richard Wagner, as examined in this article by Holocaust Art. Alan Riding had examined the issue in a 2004 issue in the New York Times.

Questions also arise with composers like Richard Strauss and Wilhelm Furtwangler.
On the other hand, some of these composers were Jewish, such as Mahler, who practiced both Catholicism and Judaism.
Also, Nazi ideology disapproved of dodecaphonic expressionistic modernism (Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, etc) which musicians consider a natural outgrowth of particularly German post romanticism.
Yet, I remember this as an issue when I was a patient at NIH in 1962 (just 17 years after the end of WWII).  I sometimes admitted in family or group therapy that I could feel “tired of music” (despite my obsession with my vinyl classical record collection), and there was a lot of social pressure to come down off the mountain and do popular music, from other patients. 
The Cuban Missile Crisis would happen while I was there.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

What happens to a piano concerto when it is played for solo piano as a "sonata"? Try this with Rachmaninoff #3

Ever wonder what a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, say #3 in D Minor, sounds like as a “piano sonata”?

Valentina Lisitsa shows us the potential of the music on solo piano only, with the embed above of the finale (from London Decca).
But in the final D Major peroration at the end, you really need orchestra.  Can a piano sonata be “amplified” in spots by other instruments, the way a symphony can be amplified by a choral finale? 
The concerto is present in three separate videos, recorded back in Dec. 2012 on YouTube.  

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Josh Wright discusses how one becomes a concert pianist

“Becoming a Concert Pianist: Realities, Difficulties and Solutions”, with Josh Wright.  

Josh mentions the hours of daily practice early, and then advises people who have other ways to make a living (like tech or programming or software, which will be common in musicians) to do that first.  

 But some people will have a passion and drive for concert life.  They know who they are.

He also says that there are several ways to get in, and it doesn’t always require wining a piano competition.

When I was growing up as a boy, I played in piano festivals, probably five years in a row, until about age 14.  The first piano teacher then died rather suddenly of colon cancer, and went to a new one.  

 You got ratings for your performances (two pieces;  one time I played Rachmaninoff’s B Minor Prelude from Op. 32).

I was reasonably proficient in high school and could play Mozart Piano Concerto #27 (and I think 20 – and sorry, not #26 with the missing left hand needing “recomposition”).  I could play the last Op 32 Prelude, a majestic one in D-flat.  Another favorite was Liszt’s second “Legend”, “St Francis Walks on the Water”.
Wright mentions playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #3 (which cadenza?) and Saint-Saens #2 (G Minor) as well as the Chopin Grand Polonaise. 

The piano shown in the picture is on the upper level at the MGM Grand Casino at National Harbor in Maryland south of Washington DC. 

Friday, January 03, 2020

Schubert's "Arpeggione" sonata

Here’s a little curiosity to start out the New Year, the Arpeggione Sonata in A Minor, D 821, by Franz Schubert.
It is usually performed with a true cello, as is the case here. The original instrument was more like a guitar bowed as a cello.

Here it is played by YoYoMa and Emmanuel Ax.

Note that the cello part is printed an octave higher than how it sounds.

The slow movement is in the dominant major, which is unusual for a classical cyclical work in a Minor Key.
The rondo finale, a gentle Allegretto, is in the Picardy major. The very last chord provides a stylish soft ending. 
Schubert composed no concertos, and this work is often mentioned as close to one.