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I've often been skeptical of claims like the "Mozart Effect", but the Wall Street Journal has an article that summarizes a number of recent studies that show some real, positive results from providing music lessons to children. Here is an excerpt from "A Musical Fix for American Schools":
Another Canadian study, this one of 48 preschoolers and published in 2011, found that verbal IQ increased after only 20 days of music training. In fact, the increase was five times that of a control group of preschoolers, who were given visual art lessons, says lead researcher Sylvain Moreno, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He found that music training enhanced the children’s “executive function”—that is, their brains’ ability to plan, organize, strategize and solve problems. And he found the effect in 90% of the children, an unusually high rate.Let me emphasize that this exposure was to classical music. I'm pretty sure that hip-hop would lower your IQ considerably.
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Smoking is dangerous. Even the depiction of smoking in a 19th century opera can be dangerous. What is that, 42nd-hand smoke? Here's the article: "West Australian Opera Scraps Carmen Over Fears it Promotes Smoking". The title character works in a cigarette factory. In keeping with current trends in opera production, couldn't they have just moved the setting to a bordello or CIA interrogation center? Somewhere not connected directly with smoking?
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I wish I could have seen this production of a Rameau opera-ballet.
Dancing is as important as singing in French opera-ballets, and for “Les Fêtes,” Opera Lafayette not only embraced that challenge but made dance the central thematic element. Originally mounted at Versailles as part of the wedding festivities of the Dauphin (son of Louis XV) and Maria-Josepha of Saxony, the work is a celebratory piece about reconciliation, so the company enlisted three dance companies of different genres, whose leaders each directed one act and created the choreography for their own ensembles throughout. When the companies appeared together within the acts, the contrast and complementarity of their styles underscored the theme while making for an enchanting evening.
Sounds absolutely fascinating! Hey, the whole opera is on YouTube, though, sadly, in a concert version with no dancing. The music is lovely, though:
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Iggy Pop has been around a long time and has a lot of advice for young musicians:
Stay away from drugs and talent judges.
When I was a boy, I used to sit for hours suffering through the entire US radio top 40 waiting for that one song by The Beatles and the other one by The Kinks.
To tell you the truth, when it comes to art, money is an unimportant detail. It just happens to be a huge one unimportant detail. But, a good LP is a being, it's not a product. It has a life-force, a personality, and a history, just like you and me. It can be your friend. Try explaining that to a weasel.
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The St. Lawrence String Quartet do a terrific lecture recital on Joseph Haydn--and I do mean terrific in both the playing and the talking. Watch the whole thing. I think that this guy is as big a Haydn nut as I am! YouTube won't embed, so follow the link for the clip:
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Scott Bradlee is the leader of the group Postmodern Jukebox who specialize in doing covers of popular songs in vintage styles. Here's an example of a Beyoncé tune in vintage big band style:
This is an old parlor trick of course, where a pianist sits down and does variations in the style of different composers on a familiar tune like "Happy Birthday" or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star". Dudley Moore used to do a terrific skit where he played something that sounded like a Beethoven piano sonata using the theme "Colonel Bogey's March":
But in these postmodern times, apparently what Scott Bradlee is doing is not supposed to be funny it is supposed to be... what? Touching?
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And that's it for this week's light-hearted edition of the Friday Miscellanea. Let's end with the habanera from Carmen:
UPDATE: After I put this up I ran across a very interesting essay by David Byrne (late of Talking Heads) about the contemporary art scene titled "I Don't Care About Contemporary Art Anymore?" The question mark is really rhetorical because he doesn't care anymore. Here's why:
Of course this is not a problem contemporary composers have to face!