Thursday, December 23, 2010

My blog is now smartphone-enabled!

Thanks to Blogger in Draft, you can now read my blog on your mobile device of choice in a tiny-screen-friendly format.  I've been waiting for this feature.  Despite the relative dearth of content, it's been a big year for the blog.  Another redesign, the most pageviews I've ever had, and now I've gone mobile.  Maybe 2011 will be a bigger year. 
I've been busy for the past few days, which is better for me than not being busy, which usually gives me time to think about the fact that I don't write much here.  (I have a tumblr as well and you're welcome to follow me, but I don't imagine writing anything there if I'm not using writing here.)  I keep saying this, but maybe next year I'll make this site a true music blog and just stick to that.  Otherwise I'll never reach my goal of a job writing for the New York Philharmonic.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another set of open mic videos, this time with actual editing!

My friend James played a few songs at Hank's Saloon in Brooklyn last Friday evening, and I was there to document it.  Rather than just upload the videos, I discovered that iMovie has some really cool features to enhance your projects.  You can put titles in front of your videos!  And did you know iMovie comes with fade-in and fade-out transitions?  Totally cool!  So I punched up this set of videos with some sweet effects, thanks to those wizards at Apple.  Seriously, those guys make some cool stuff.  Have you seen this phone that they sell?  I think it's called the iPhone!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

NY Philharmonic, December 7, 2010: Beethoven & Mahler

I was interested in last night's concert more than usual, as the program featured a Mahler work that I hadn't heard before: Des Knaben Wunderhorn, or "The Youth's Magic Horn," a collection of songs that inspired Mahler throughout his career.  But before I could experience the thrill of "new" Mahler, there was the small matter of Beethoven's Symphony No. 2.

I played Beethoven's 2nd with NYRO a few years ago, so I'm more than a little familiar with the music.  I spent most of the first half of the concert comparing the Philharmonic's (and Sir Colin Davis's) interpretation with ours. Davis had a sparing conducting technique for the Beethoven.  He rarely used his left hand, and doing little more with his right than keeping the beat and giving an occasional cue.  The orchestra showed a good dynamic contrast throughout the work, and I noticed a different bowing than NYRO's for a critical section of the second movement.  I had trouble paying attention for the last movement as I was trying to suppress a cough until the end of the piece. Still, it was a energetic reading of the piece that reminded me how much I enjoyed playing it.

I knew of the Wunderhorn as a source of material for Mahler's symphonies, but not as a stand-alone work.  The texts are sad, funny, and slightly profane, with words that nearly beg to be set to music.  As the Philharmonic's program notes mentioned, many composers utilized the poems, including Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.  Mahler incorporated some of the poems into his symphonies, and the rest became a song cycle.  I especially enjoyed "Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt" ("St. Anthony of Padua's Sermon To The Fishes") as I recognized the music immediately.  Like many other composers (Bach, Handel, Beethoven, and Mozart, just to name a few off the top of my head) Mahler was not above reusing his music in different works.  I'd forgotten that Mahler also used the music from this song setting as the third movement of his Symphony No. 2.  "Revelge" ("Reveille") and "Der Tamboursg’sell" ("The Drummer Boy") were haunting, with martial fanfares posed against mournful melodies and lyrics.  "Lob des hohen Verstandes" ("Praise from an Advanced Intellect"), which described a singing contest between a cuckoo and a nightingale judged by a donkey, was as funny as it was musical.  Clarinetist Mark Nuccio deserved recognition for his role as the cuckoo.  And I liked the interplay between soloists Dorothean Roschmann and Ian Bostridge, who acted out some of the dialogue in the texts in addition to their singing.  At first they were hard to hear over the orchestra but their voices grew stronger throughout the performance.  Davis kept the entire ensemble balanced and kept the orchestra out of their way.  I might have to seek out a recording of Des Knaben Wunderhorn to add to my already-extensive and ever-growing collection of Mahler's music.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


On my visit to the Smithsonian's American History museum last Friday, I saw their small (compared to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art) collection of musical instruments.  What the collection lacked in size it made up in content.  They had an entire Stradivarius quartet of instrument, including the only Stradivarius viola that I can recall seeing in person.  In fact, I wasn't entirely aware that Stradivari made any violas.  It seemed a shame to have the instruments locked away in display cases, but from the audio clips playing in the gallery I assume they see an occasional performance.

I also got to see the World War II memorial for the first time.  I was against the construction of this memorial when it was proposed back when I still lived in Washington, DC.  I'm still not convinced that the veterans of WWII deserve a more majestic memorial than the veterans of the Korean or Vietnam wars.  But the WWII memorial pays tribute to our country's role in that war while fitting into the expanse of the National Mall.  Walking around the fountains and reading the names of the major battles of the Atlantic and Pacific theaters, I remembered the scope of that conflict and the sheer effort the entire country devoted to it.  If we're going to have a monument to our role in that war, I think that memorial was the best we could do.