Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A little birthday music

Yesterday I posted twice regarding Bach's birthday, but I didn't realized there's another great composer born a day (and 245 years) later on March 22. So, between rehearsals this afternoon, I put this little tribute together. I bribed my house violinist to record it with me after dinner, and here it is, with two hours to spare:



[Lyrics will be much easier to read if you follow full-screen.]

For the record, this is my fourth re-imagining of this tune.

See also:

à la Bruch:




à la 12-tone


à la Messiaen
 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

worth at least 1000 words

OK, as a last-second Bach's Birthday gift, and a promise of things to come, here's a little image I've been working on:


It is nothing less than all 257 measures of Bach's Chaconne in D Minor, which might just be the greatest piece of music ever written. And it's all there on one page. If you click on that image above, you'll be able to see a much higher-res version, where are all the notes are actually pretty clear if you zoom in closely enough. Or, you can download the same thing in PDF format.

I have much more to say about this kind of thing, but for now I'll just say that I find it quite beautiful as a sort of snapshot representation of this:



Happy Birthday, JSB!


See also: Looking Bach (from earlier today)

Looking Bach

Today is Bach's birthday, and I was surprised to realize I've never done a post about my posts on Bach. (MMmusing is very meta, and what's more meta than posts about posts?) I've given Stravinsky the retrospective treatment, but the truth is that I've probably written about Bach even more than The Rite of Spring. So, for this first day of spring, here's a collection of ways in which I've mused about Bach, from the sublime to the truly ridiculous:


First, my two most popular YouTube videos.
Next, a series of posts exploring Bach's magnificent Cantata No. 4, including four annotated score videos.
Sometimes, I sit down and play Bach on the piano:
Here, an imagined combination of two closely related Bach movements into a single duet:
I've spent a good bit of time engraving Bach's music, which has led to:
  • This discussion of my piano transcription of a chorale prelude
  • The Joy of Engraving, re-setting Bach from C-sharp major to D-flat
  • This just popped up, featuring a computer program which animates a Bach fugue with popping kernels and offers the possibility to play with the music in various ways.
I've also done a little bit of composing using Bach as source material:
Finally, a couple of examples of visual manipulations of Bach's face and name:
And there's something new in the works! But that will likely appear on a day that isn't Bach's birthday...

UPDATE (still on Bach's birthday): Here's one new thing for today, about which I'll have much more to say: The Bach Chaconne on One Page

Friday, February 24, 2017

10 Years

Today is the 10th anniversary of MMmusing! You might think, "hey, it doesn't look like this blog is really very active any more." Well, I have alternative facts to that:



That's right, on a blog which has featured a wide range of multimedia creations, I'm celebrating in style with my first full-blown [very short] opera aria. It's true!

Our story begins right around the tumultuous election back in November with a Facebook discussion. (Mozart and Da Ponte did a lot of collaborating on Facebook back in the day.) My composer friend Wesley (who's actually been partly responsible for several of my strange experiments) and I had the following exchange as the election news rolled in:


And indeed, I think that the classical music world, with its tendency to be too serious about just about everything, has neglected the wonderful world of comic opera.* As if Mozart (or Sondheim, for that matter) couldn't address serious societal concerns with silliness and wit.

Anyway, in fairly short order, I'd churned out a perfectly ridiculous little demo, with "libretto" inspired by a Youtube clip. Trump's China Aria:



Then, the villain Wesley struck again and wondered which aria from this imaginary opera would feature overuse of the "Dies irae" (a Gregorian chant tune from the Requiem mass that was exploited by many 19th century composers for melodramatic effect). Well, of course I couldn't resist that challenge, and I'm actually kind of proud of this little partial aria, mainly because the "Dies irae" motif (first heard in bass and then in Trump's melody on p.2) is turned into something lighthearted.



And then, mercifully, I put the idea away. I did imagine at the time that an imaginary Trump opera would cast the First Lady as a mezzo, but of course I'd need to write a Michelle Obama aria first before I could start on Melania's (rimshot). However, in late January when the "alternative facts" saga began to unfold, I couldn't help but think that Kellyanne would make a great coloratura character. A few words came to mind, and suddenly I'd written something more substantial than I had for the Donald - and I honestly kind of liked it. It is operatic in style, though I hope it has some of the feel of musical theater, a la my heroes Britten and Bernstein. (The lyrics also owe a bit to George Costanza.)

Whereas I'd been more than happy to let Trump be personified by a synthesized voice, I knew I'd need an actual human to pull this off, so I sent the music off to a wonderful soprano, Julia Nelson, and she agreed to give it a whirl. We had hoped to meet and record it live, but couldn't make our schedules work, and in the end, she had to record it alone without even an accompaniment track due to some technical difficulties. I then spent this morning assembling an "orchestra" around her, and here we are, just before the blog-iversary is over. (Of course, late Friday is supposed to be the worst possible time to drop news. Oh well.)

It's all very much in beta form, though I don't know how much further I'd go with any of this. This aria, for example, is probably missing a couple of sections. I'm not likely to write anything like a full opera, but a song cycle of arias could be fun. But I do intend to go on blogging. In fact, I had a few items in the works this week in hopes of building a little anniversary momentum before circumstances (sickness, car trouble) intervened. At least that means I've got more content for the near future.

In the meantime, if you've missed anything these ten years, you might start here, or even here if you'd like to sample a wider range of creations. Or, be really brave and SPIN THE WHEEL!


* I know there are exceptions, but they don't tend to get as much attention as the SERIOUS things.



Sunday, February 5, 2017

NFL Pachelbel

Early this morning as I was practicing before for church, I realized I'd neglected to honor the special feast day that is Super Bowl Sunday - and, as happens remarkably often, the local team is part of the feast, which begins in about fifteen minutes. My scheduled postlude was a Toccata in G Minor by Johann "Don't Call Me One-Hit Wonder" Pachelbel, but I decided to insert a little fanfare introduction:



As it happens, this toccata features a tonic pedal tone, which is also true of the NFL on Fox theme. In addition to the fanfare intro, I inserted a little bit of the main theme starting right after m.7, though in the version above (recorded before the service), I made the mistake of not setting that quote apart with a trumpet stop, so it gets buried a little bit.

Anyway, the game is about to begin, so that's all I'll say for now - but at least I'm blogging again. Go Pats!