Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Not that we need one, but here is another reason not to go see Quentin Tarantino's movie "The Hateful Eight." They completely destroyed a 145-year-old Martin guitar from the Martin Guitar Museum. Here's the story. Kurt Russell was the destroyer, but it was apparently because someone neglected to tell him that he had to swap the real guitar for a prop one before smashing it against a wall.
Museum director Dick Boak told Reverb magazine they wanted to fix the guitar and asked for the pieces, but it was “destroyed.” He added, “As a result of the incident, the company will no longer loan guitars to movies under any circumstances.”
Never let someone who played a character named Snake Plissken play your vintage Martin!

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I haven't the foggiest idea of how football works, but since I am writing this on Superbowl Sunday (is that an official religious holiday?), I happened to read a very funny piece on the game: "A non-fan's guide to Superbowl 50." Shouldn't that be "Superbowl L?" Anyway, it is worth reading because of this beautifully cogent example of music criticism:
Coldplay—the favourite band of people who like self-help lyrics set to music you’d hear on a mutual-fund commercial.
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I think this is why people who work technique in more creative ways do better: "Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast."
"What we found is if you practise a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practising the exact same thing multiple times in a row," said lead researcher Pablo Celnik, from Johns Hopkins University.
Which is pretty much what good teachers tell us. If you read on in the article you might find that this is not as directly applicable to music as it might seem. The new skill involved squeezing a device to move a cursor on a computer screen. This doesn't involve skills like, for example, precisely positioning a violin bow to get a desired sound or any other skill involving shaping a sound. Still, worth reading.

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"Where Classical Music Meets Social Justice" is a headline bound to provoke a few questions, isn't it?
Sphinx has had a historic impact on classical music. Two decades ago, the number of African Americans and Latinos in American orchestras was a little less than 2%. Today, that number has risen to more than 4%, and many winning auditions were past Sphinx laureates.
The competition has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships and prize money since 1998, sent alums to all the top music schools in the country and helped increase the number of black and Latino string players soloing with orchestras annually from nearly none to more than 25. This year, 20 semifinalists will be competing for more than $100,000 in prizes, scholarships and performing opportunities with major orchestras.
It is hard to disagree with the whole idea of encouraging people to participate and excel in classical music, but there is a tiny flaw in all this--should everything be divided up according to racial percentages? Does this apply to basketball players and long distance runners who tend to be overwhelmingly black? In the case of music, I suspect that ability is an individual trait, not a collective one.

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At Plymouth University in England, scientists are finding ways to allow musicians with brain damage to communicate. It sounds like an amazing advance made possible through brain/computer music interfacing software and the collaboration of professional musicians. Here is the story: "Brain damaged violinist makes music for first time in 27 years with mind-reading technology." From the article it seems that Rosemary, and other brain-damaged former musicians, are able to make compositional choices and communicate them to players in real time:

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Michael Barimo, whistler, doing "Der Hölle Rache" from the Magic Flute, otherwise known as the Queen of the Night's aria, even though she has another one, earlier on:

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I hate to show musicians having embarrassing experiences onstage, but what the heck, plus, they seem to be laughing about it too:

As a friend wrote, this is why God invented binders.

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If you are worrying about cultural appropriation, Josh Gelernter explains why you shouldn't. We don't have to refrain from sushi, yoga and toe rings until the rest of the world refrains from air travel (airplane invented in the US), polio vaccine (discovered in the US), music notation and things like harmony (developed in Europe), and most of the rest of modern civilization. Personally I am willing to negotiate with the Greeks for the return of democracy because, frankly, it's not working out as I hoped.

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Here is an article about the use of music in political campaigns that is interesting: "How Donald Trump Broke the GOP's Music Curse." And there is some history and background:
In the past few years, Republican campaigns have turned into a kind of low-level war between musicians and the candidates trying to use their material. Tom Petty objected to Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann coming on stage to his “American Girl,” as well as to George W. Bush’s use of his “Don’t Back Down”; John Mellencamp, Van Halen, Dave Grohl and Jackson Browne all complained about John McCain’s use of some of their songs; Heart put out a blistering statement about Sarah Palin’s use of the song “Barracuda”: “Sarah Palin’s views and values in no way represent us as American women,” they wrote. Boston’s Tom Scholz asked Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to stop using “More Than a Feeling.” One anonymous Internet wag summed up the situation by quipping that GOP politicians “can only use country music or dead people’s music.”
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For our envoi today here is the original version of "Der Hölle Rache" with soprano Diana Damrau. This is probably the most terrifying aria ever written for soprano.


David said...

Bryan, I couldn't help but notice that in the whistling Mozart video, the guy in the background with the fiddle (probably an old Italian one) bears an uncanny resemblance to one Joshua Bell.

Bryan Townsend said...

You have an excellent eye, David! That is indeed Joshua Bell and this video was taken at his birthday party.

Marc Puckett said...

Ah ha! I wondered too, whether that was Joshua Bell. Love to whistle-- there are some benighted people in the world who find whistling to be odd, I've discovered-- but my attempts in the Der Hölle Rache department are as nothing, nothing compared to Barimo's performance.

The Super Bowl people abandoned the Roman numerals some time ago; do recall reading that the decision was being discussed, anyway, not very recently. Am surprised Feschuk didn't mention the advertisements, which, along with the halftime show ("lukewarm sonic oatmeal', ha), are the only bits of the event I pay any attention to at all e.g. this time around, there was a Doritos video that outraged certain people because an not-yet-bo... anyway, the Superbowl, presidential inaugurations, televised candidates debates, political party conventions &c are all events I happily know of only second or third-hand.

Bryan Townsend said...

My only television experience for over a decade now has been to watch certain tv shows on DVD and the occasional clip on YouTube. Broadcast and cable television are just not part of my world. Thank goodness!

Jeph said...

The article about learning/task modification was interesting but I'm surprised they didn't really connect it to learning music. I immediately recognized this idea in a little practice trick a teacher once gave me for long runs and tricky passagework. On a long rangey passage of 16th notes, for example, you practice first straight, then in a dotted rhythm, then in the dotted rhythm reversed. Guaranteed, it's better by the next session. By practicing different kinds of unevenness, the brain arrives at a way (mysterious) to make things MORE even, when desired.

Bryan Townsend said...

Absolutely, Jeph, that's the trick.

Gabriel Amaral said...

C'mon Bryan, Quentin's new movie is great! What makes you not wanna see it, besides the broken guitar?

Bryan Townsend said...

Just not a Quentin Tarentino fan.