Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Edvin Kallstenius -- A composer worth exploring

When I first read about Swedish composer Edvin Kallstenius and his claim that "musical religion is called harmonics – everything else is secondary," I thought he might be another Charles Ives. When I heard his music, though, I revised that opinion. If I had to characterize Kallstenius' music in terms of another composer, I'd choose Paul Hindemith.

Like Ives and Hindemith, Kallstenius worked out his own musical theory. While some of his music has a somewhat tonal framework, Kallstenius' harmonies often resolve in unexpected fashion. And though his melodies may seem atonal on first hearing, they're not based on a 12-tone system. Those tones are moving to the internal logic of Kallstenius' harmonic structures.

Does Kallstenius' music work? Indeed it does. Take his first symphony from 1926. There is straight-forward motivic development that keeps the music moving forward. Kallstenius always knows where he's going and how he's going to get there.

Kallstenius was also deeply interested in folk song. His 1946 Sinfonietta No. 2 is a light work, with some folk-like melodic elements. While the harmonies are sometimes quite thick, this is still a more accessible work than the symphony.

The Musica Sinfonica, Op. 42 of 1953 represents a distillation of Kallstenius' musical theory. If it were written a half-century later, I might label it "post-tonal." Kallstenius isn't concerned with tonality, but he's not concerned with avoiding it, either. For me, this work is the most interesting of the three on this album.

Even though Kallstenius reminded me of Hindemith, he doesn't sound like Hindemith. Kallstenius' voice is original, and not just for the sake of originality. Kallstenius is simply expressing ideas that could not be written any other way.

Edvin Kallstenius: Symphony No. 1, op. 16 in E-flat major; Sinfonietta No. 2, op. 34 in G major; Musica Sinfonica, op. 42
Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra; Frank Beermann, conductor
CPO 777 361-2

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Dick Tracy Gets Funky

And the Dick Tracy crossovers continue.

In late January, Dick Tracy and Sam Ketchem visited Westview (home of Funky Winkerbean) to oversee an auction of impounded goods. According to Tom Baitiuk's blog, the idea for the crossover story came from Joe Staton, the current artist for Dick Tracy. Baitiuk also published the full sequence for both strips with their parallel stories. Below are a few samples. (click on images to enlarge)

Dick Tracy - note the Starman Jones cover in the center panel.
Funky Winkerbean. John Howard and Crazy Harry meet Dick Tracy.
Dick Tracy - Dick and Sam meet Funky Winkerbean.
Funky Winkerbean - John Howard provides a synopsis.

But to fully appreciate what's going on, there's a lot of back story that needs to be filled in.

In Funky Winkerbean there's a fictional Golden Age comic book series that's been the subject of a few story lines. John Howard, owner of the Komix Korner and comics collector Crazy Harry Klinghorn have referenced Starman Jones. There was reference to a Starman Jones movie being in development when English teacher/writer Les Moore went to Hollywood to write a screenplay for his book. A recent story line followed Holly Winkerbean as she tried to build a complete collection of Starman Jones for her son serving in the Middle East -- a story line that was concluded with this crossover.

Tom Baitiuk asked a few of his colleagues to create Starman Jones comic book covers -- including Joe Staton. And that's probably why Staton suggested extending the collaboration further.

Meanwhile, in Dick Tracy, the villain known as the Jumbler tried to steal a forgotten cache of Golden Age comics. That particular story line also marked a crossover with the Jumbler puzzle! (see: Dick Tracy and the Jumble Crossover). Starman Jones comics can be seen in the pile.

The multiple levels of this crossover are what made this enjoyable for me. And seeing such imaginative creativity at work is also a pleasure. Of course, this means that the world of Funky Winkerbean -- and by extension that of Baitik's other strip Crankshaft, are now part of the Dick Tracy Universe, along with those of Little Orphan Annie, Gasoline Alley, and Terry and the Pirates (among others)!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Diabelli Project 080 - Piano Piece in D

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

Just a few weeks ago I posted another piano piece in D (see Diabelli Project 078). Like that sketch, this one also isn't especially concerned about staying within a major/minor or even a modal key structure. Rather, the idea is to use D as a destination point, and as a point of reference. (click on image to enlarge)

So what happens next? Does this sketch somehow tie in with the earlier one, or are these the start of two different works? That's for you to decide. As always, this sketch is offered freely to any and all to use as their inspired to. But you know -- I think I'll be revisiting this one myself sometime...