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Top BlogsBy Laurie Niles
September 26, 2012 10:51
I was born in 1968, a year of mad generational uproar and confusion.
I don't think anything could better illustrate the cultural bewilderment of the time than this video of Andy Williams, singing "The Age of Aquarius" and "Let the Sunshine In," with the Osmond brothers, a year after I was born:
Some background: these tunes were written for the drug-dazed musical "Hair," which is about hippie counter-culture and the sexual revolution. Andy Williams was a soft-singing crooner, beloved by little old ladies, and the Osmond brothers were Mormon whiz-kid singers.
I was a toddler. I joyously embraced it all.
You see, I did not listen to Suzuki tapes when I was a small child (they didn't exist), nor did I listen to Mozart. I did not come from a musical family, so no one was playing Chopin on the piano or holding quartet rehearsals in the living room.
But my Grandma Izzie had a record player, and a huge collection of LPs, sitting in big, square, cardboard sleeves. I don't know how many she had -- more than I could count back then, for sure. Hundreds, thousands! Every one of them was Andy Williams. (The man did make 42 studio albums and I think she had them all!)
She lived in a little apartment attached to our house, and most mornings at around 5 a.m. I would sneak down the hall to Grandma Izzie's place. She knew how to keep me content: music. I climbed up on her big sofa, and she would put on the only music she had: Andy Williams. And I was happy, bouncing my head to the beat of the music, looking out the window and listening. Good morning, Starshine! Do you hear the violins in there?
These are possibly the most over-orchestrated tunes ever recorded. Can you even believe it? But that's what people did, when they wanted over-the-top sound before synthesizers: they hired a huge orchestra to back them up. Can you imagine a singer doing this today? I doubt it even occurs to most singers. It's much cheaper and easier to press a few buttons on a synthesizer, then hit the auto-tune to keep their own voice sonically palatable.
Processed food, processed music. Oh just spit it out, let it be all messy like it was! One last Andy Williams tune. May he rest in peace and love and squareness and grooviness. No, actually, I hope he's up there singing for Grandma Izzie and all her friends!
September 25, 2012 06:37
Continuing the conversation on 100 Things to Do in classical music (I was too late to comment on the post) I'd add what may seem an off the wall suggestion: experience a concert in which folk musicians collaborate with a great orchestra. This will enhance your view of both sorts of music, and it's a great thing to share with someone who might not otherwise go to see an orchestra -- or go to see that folk artist -- too.
My favorite experiences along this line:
Other folk musicians who do really fine concerts with orchestras include Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, from the Cape Breton fiddle tradition, Tish Hinojosa's songs of the American west from a Hispanic perspective, and Scot singer Eddi Reader's program on the songs of Robert Burns. These are all ways to hear the work of an orchestra differently yourself and perhaps open doors for someone else to listen, as well.
By Emily Grossman
September 24, 2012 23:12
The 28-seat flight across the inlet was full--save one seat, fortunately. I say fortunately, because the young, uninformed flight attendant insisted upon checking my violin with the luggage since it wouldn't fit in the undersized overhead bin. Standard protocol involves a simple tuck in the coat bin behind the cockpit, but she wouldn't have it. After informing her that I would be getting off the plane and missing the evening's rehearsal with the Anchorage Symphony, she politely agreed to buckle him safely into the last seat, which struck her as a funny sight, giving her occasional fits of giggles during the twenty-minute bumpy flight through torrents of rain.
Anchorage, Alaska. Thursday morning, I rolled out of bed on my own whim: by ten a.m. I'm dressed. The hotel managers still remember me on a first name basis, and nodded a happy good morning to me as I passed through the lobby on my way to breakfast. Conveniently, my favorite coffee distributor placed a location just across the street from my hotel, literally in the same building as the Alaska PAC. What a way to begin the day, with a fresh toasted bagel and coffee amongst some of the same regulars I've seen there for six years.
Meanwhile, from my seat in the corner, I spied a cellist (easily recognized by the large case that accompanies him) studying his part for the upcoming performance, sipping an americano before practice. We'd met briefly a year and a half ago, and trios were mentioned. I think about starting a conversation again today, but I'm not so good at that and have a phobia of being creepy, so I simply make up various plots while he finishes his drink and leaves.
It takes a while for the coffee to kick in, but when it does, I'm ready to tackle the day's schedule. Practice. Eat. Practice. Shop. Practice. Eat. Practice. Coffee. Rehearsal. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. It'll be me in my room and nothing but lots of time with my fiddle, and a large mass of repertoire that's had to be mastered in nine days' time. Three days remain. I have no cell phone. No one can find me. The sessions commence.
Anyone needs to be careful when scheduling six to seven hours of playing into each day, especially when one hour alone will be spent on the chords and runs of Capriccio Espagnol (still not so good just yet). Mandated practice breaks are tucked carefully under my umbrella, and alternate between coffee and walks to the 5th avenue mall. Outside, I could smell the familar downtown street odors of onions on the grill and alder smoked meats. Each ASO season's opening September concert always comes adorned with bright autumnal splashes. This year, it's also been adorned with so much rain, you'd think maybe you should call an ark instead of a cab. Flood advisories and road washouts kept many folk indoors--which is all the more reason why I can love being a musician in Alaska: the weather is perfect for practicing.
I also love playing with ASO because the elevator randomly stops to let on world-class musicians on their way to the same rehearsal I'm about to attend. This concert, the Harlem string quartet would be joining us for Randall Fleischer's orchestration of West Side Story Concerto for string quartet. I couldn't wait to hear how this collaberation would unfold.
I haven't played with any other symphony, so I don't really know how to compare us to anything else. We don't go on strikes; no one here is in it for the money, so evidently, we're here because we want to be. We seem to have an overly generous audience, and most of the concerts are sellouts with standing ovations (whether we deserve them or not). We have a generous list of donors, and, according to the conductor, our board of directors is the best. Everyone on it wants to be involved; it only takes one simple request, and somebody volunteers to help.
Admittedly, we're not the best symphony. But we have some of the best amongst us, and I've never attended a concert without discovering some new amazing talent in the group. This concert, I happened to secure the best seat in the entire house: front and left of the harpist, a brilliant young elfish man from Boise with magical powers. Entire sections of violinists miss their entrances following his cadenza in the Rimsky Korsakov. I had two more rehearsals to figure out how to recover from his ethereal effects in two measures' time.
And then, just like that, during the rehearsal break, the prayers of many were answered when the cellist I'd been eyeing earlier suddenly and unprovokedly approached me about coming to Soldotna to rehearse Brahms with me.
Really? I looked around to make sure I was not having another recurrent dream, and that this was in fact still the green room, not heaven.
Hello, cellist. I'm Emily Grossman. And your name again?
By Laurie Niles
September 24, 2012 19:05
Good news: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians and management appear to have reached an agreement, according to both the CSO Musicians Facebook page and to the Chicago Tribune. According to the Trib, it's a three-year contract, and ratification is pending. Negotiations began at 2 p.m. today, and the tentative agreement was reached at about 6:45 p.m. Assuming they ratify the agreement when they meet tomorrow at 9 a.m., the planned shows will go on, including subscription concerts on Wednesday and Friday, a Symphony Ball fundraiser on Saturday and a run-out concert to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Thursday. Also, the orchestra's early-October tour to New York's Carnegie Hall and Mexico will go on as planned.
Here's that Chicago Trib article, it has a nice video short with longtime Chicago classical music writer John von Rhein about "why we should care." (It can be tricky to link to the Chicago Trib, but this seems to have worked)
By Thomas Gregory
September 24, 2012 15:39
I've recently started conducting a lively amateur orchestra in north London. Whilst I have always harbored an interest in conducting, what I never imagined was that teaching large groups of beginner violinists would provide such useful training. I've never been one to talk down to children, so moving to working with adults has proven a simpler transition than I first imagined. Both need motivating, help and lots of patience. Conducting is essentially educating, only with the use of a baton, fancier words and ruder jokes. If you can motivate a roomful of kids with little or no musical training to play together, a room full of keen amateurs is a breeze.
By Stephanie Chase
September 23, 2012 15:28
This past spring I played a chamber music concert at the Tempe Center for the Arts in Arizona, where it was my great pleasure to collaborate with the fabulously elegant pianist Doris Stevenson and the terrific cellist (and artistic director of the Sonoran Chamber Music series) Thomas Landschoot, in music by Beethoven and Ravel.
"We don’t feel we need a Stradivarius (violin). If someone offered it, we’d be happy, of course, But I’d have no problem showing a Strad alongside a mirliton (kazoo), with the wax paper and string. Both are the same type of tool; one is not better than the other, and the fact is, kids will probably get more out of the mirliton than the Strad."
By Jonathan Hai
September 23, 2012 13:37
Post No. 22
There are lots of things I didn’t know about violins before my husband became a violin maker. One of the most bizarre of them is that sometimes violins, violas and cellos get tanned before they are varnished. Yes – tanned as in a tanning salon.
But let me take a step back and give you an update on where we are with the Quartet: the bodies (or "casse" in Italian) of all four instruments have been closed, which is an important and exciting step. But as Yonatan explained to me yesterday over dinner, "there are phases in the violin-making process, in which it's hard to see that real progress is made, but nonetheless a lot of work is required".
"OK", I thought to myself, "now he's beginning to sound like a Zen-Buddhist…" out loud I looked at him and said "say WHAT?".
"Well", he said, "for example, after I close the body of an instrument, it would seem that work on it is finished. But actually there is still a lot of work to be done on the finishing touches that really create the perfectly-flowing, curvy lines of the hand-made instrument. I redo the "sguscia" (the indented line above the purfling all around the instrument's contour), and shave very fine slivers off the instrument's borders, rounding them further and making them more symmetrical and perfect still". This, by the way, is not done with sandpaper – oh NO!! As I mentioned in an earlier post, sanding would scratch the surface of the instrument. So the entire, exact work of finishing the last details is done with a special, extremely sharp, gauge and with the scraper – one tenth of a millimeter (or less) at a time.
When the final touches on each instrument were completed, it went into the tanning closet. It's like this – Yonatan had built a special, perfectly light-proof closet in his workshop, and placed extremely powerful ultra-violet lights in it. He hangs each instrument perfectly in mid-air, so that the lights can tan it evenly all around. It takes a number of days, but after tanning like this, the instruments' wood acquires a beautiful golden color. This color will then serve as the background (or "ground") for the varnishing process.
The instruments were placed in the tanning closet one after the other from mid-August onwards - first the cello, then the viola, then the first-violin, and finally, today, the second-violin. If you have ever had the misfortune to be in Israel during that time of year, you know it's over 35 degrees Celsius most of the day, maybe dropping to a low of 30 at night (for all you Americans, that's between 100 and 85 Fahrenheit…) with the sun beating on you like a hammer. So when I was tanning in the summer heat with the kids on the beach, the instruments had the ultra-violet light to tan them :) Actually, this is exactly why the ultra-violet closet is used in the climate-controlled studio – the real sun around here is just too damn hot for the instruments. Boy, do I sympathize…
Cello and viola ready:
All four instruments prepared:
Pretty cool, ha?
By Nathan Cole
September 23, 2012 11:34
I returned to my wife and dog in Pasadena last night, after a whirlwind week at the Artistworks studio in Napa, CA. We were able to film my whole curriculum for the Violin School during the 7 days in the studio, with the exception of 5 or 6 of the Dont and Kreutzer etudes. Sorry Jacob and Rodolphe! We were down to the last hour, with the bus ready to take me to the airport, and I was pleading, "I have to get a good take of Dont #1 at least!" The crew was great and kept my spirits up when my energy started to flag. They had to keep track of 3 cameras at all times, up to 5 for certain pieces, plus levels for the voice, violin and piano. They also had to keep my face powdered so that I looked a little less like I'd stepped out into the light of day for the first time in a month!
Here's a "behind-the scenes" video that co-founder Patricia Butler took on her iPhone during one of our takes. Here, pianist Hugh Sung (inventor of the Air Turn wireless pedal page-turning system, no less!) plays the part of the orchestra for Smetana's Bartered Bride Overture. He was a sport for putting together orchestral reductions for all 69 of our excerpts!
By Tyrone Wilkins
September 21, 2012 20:55
Tonight at my school we had a show called 'Broadway Night'. Students performed musical numbers and dances from their favorite musicals. Everyone did an amazing job but one performance stood out more than the others. My new friend Rachael sang 'Til I hear you sing' from 'Love Never Dies' Now I've heard some great voices in my life but something is different about hers. So smooth and connected. Every note,every word,every I eye closing moment...I felt it in my heart,and all over actually. I immediately thought of the musical possibilities,so many different emotions that can come from One. Single.Voice. Could it be possible to imitate a voice like hers on the violin? I know this is off from my normal posts but her performance was the most inspiring thing I've seen in a long time. I know she has a great future ahead of her and I'm really looking forward to working with her...possibly forming a group? Only time will tell,but her voice....is timeless.
By LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
September 21, 2012 16:47
I made these two small videos trying to demonstrate the "chattoyance" or "holographic effect".
As the light moves the flames in the varnish wood moves and "dances". This is known is "chattoyance" or "holographic effect", as seen in old Italian instruments, here can be seen in one of my violas.
Revisit Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles' coverage from Canada of the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition, including her interview with gold medalist Marc Bouchkov.
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Confessions of a Former Suzuki Teacher by Pamela Wiley - May 2013
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