Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Spam Roundup August, 2016

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world. 

How's that again?

- If you are severe approximately learningbuying a car with bad credit account, you moldiness Hold in brain that fact, nearly citizenry will Occupy it very earnestly [!?]

- I pay a visit daily some sites and sites to read posts. however this webpage presents quality based posts. [So does that mean we're on the "visit daily" site list, or the "read posts" site list?]

- always i used to read smaller content that as well their motive, and that is also happening with this article which I am reading here [This comment makes me feel... small.]

That's the lumber truck in question, waiting at the crossing.
Lumbering through the comments

A short post about something incredibly obscure, The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along, continues draw tons of spambot comments. The post was a simple one about a small vintage Japanese penny toy. However....

 - I''m attempting to find things to improve my site! Assume its adequate to use a few of your ideas! [Um, sure.]


 - To complicate things further, many states consider minors that are emancipated, married, or in the military to be at the age of majority. [Yes, that does complicate things with regards to vintage Japanese tinplate toys.]

 - I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really loved surfing around your blog posts. [Gnarly comment, dude.]

Looking to the future

Has the misuse of the word "fastidious" finally fallen into disuse by spambots? Read on:

 - Wow. This article is fastidious, my sister is analyzing these things. We build futures. [A fastidious future, no doubt.]

 - Yup this post is in fact fastidious and I have learned lot of things from it concerning blogging thanks [Oh dear, have I become part of the problem?]

That's all for this month. Keep holding your moldiness and read smaller content. And remember -- if you must surf around blog posts, be sure to hang 2 (that's 10 in binary code).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Lio's Endless Loop

I know I keep returning to the newspaper comic strip Lio for these brief essays about comics. There's a good reason for that. Mark Tatulli, the creator, consistently plays with the urtext of the genre. And that brings it to light in a variety of innovative ways.

His sequence from April 4, 2016, is a good example.


The gag depends on the reader knowing the conventions of sequential art. That is, we read the panels from left to right, each subsequent panel representing a later moment in time. In this case, Lio falls down an endless hole, and so the cycle endlessly repeats.

What cycle? The sequence of panels 2 through 5 (as explained in the final panel). The sequence follows the traditional form of a daily comic strip.
Panel 1: set up the premise
Panel 2 (and later): tell the joke
Panel 3 (or final panel): deliver the punchline

In this case, the punchline requires the reader to loop the middle panels. It's a brilliantly delivered bit of meta humor. And another reason I look to Tatulli to help explain the mechanics and the appeal of sequential art.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Diabelli Project 124 - Wind Trio

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.

This week's flash composition started out with the meter. The pattern is 3 quarter notes, 2 quarter notes, (for a total of 5), then 5 eighth notes (also subdivided into a group of 3 and 2) which collapsed the pulse of the previous two measures into one. Rhythmically, I'm pleased with the results. Melodically? Well, this is one I would like to spend some more time with...

As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 017 - Entrance or Foyer

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

017 - Entrance or Foyer

This build was a little tricky. The "armrests" extend out over the edge of their supports. Getting them into place (without disturbing said supports) took a little doing.

Personally, I thought this looked more like a chair than either an entrance way or a foyer (albeit an excessively low-slung chair).


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Straco Express Layout, Part 53 - Nomura/Rosko Flashing Light Train Set

Right color, but the wrong number of cars.
Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

Recently I found -- and purchased -- three Nomura train sets in rapid succession. Individually, each one provided some additional information about Nomura's manufacturing processes and marketing. And collectively, they provided even more. This and the next two Straco Display Layout posts covers these three sets, with some cross-referencing between them.

Part 51 - Nomura Santa Fe Flashing Light Set
Part 52 - Nomura Milwaukee Road Flashing Light Diesel
Part 53 - Nomura/Rosko Flashing Light Train Set

The third Nomura set I found was a Rosko Electric Train Set. This set came in two different versions -- with and without a tank car. I was lucky enough to find a set with the tank car. Examining the set, along with photos of other sets and my recent acquisitions helped me flesh out my knowledge of this piece.

This is the set found in the box pictured above. Note that
the train is blue (rather than red, as pictured on the box)
Also note the power pack and cardboard accessories. These
are identical to those in my Nomura-branded Santa Fe set.
Even though it was branded as Rosko, this is clearly a Nomura-made set. The cars -- as well as the box top -- bear the "TN" Nomura brand. The box shape and design mirror those of the Nomura flashing light sets.

The cardboard figures that came with the set are the same that Nomura put in their own sets.

The locomotive is remarkable, both in construction and complexity. It's modeled on the GMD 1001, a General Motors demonstrator unit built in 1956, and retired in 1958. The GMD 1001 was designed to tow locomotives needing repair but didn't have the horsepower to handle the new, heavier diesel being built.

The unit had a two-year run GM London, Ontario locomotive plant.According to Old Time Trains, only five other units were built. Those were shipped to Brazil.

The prototype for the Rosko/Nomura locomotive
So how did such an obscure prototype come to the attention of Nomura's toy designers? Perhaps someone at Rosko in the States was a train buff. It's a mystery, for sure.

Not the two drive shafts on either side of the motor.
Like the Nomura flashing light F3's the 1001 has a rotating light bulb. The mechanism is a little different, though. The light perches atop the motor. The cab has red opaque plastic windows for the light to (sort of) shine through, plus an opening on the top of the cab.


All of the other Nomura sets have two pieces of rolling stock. The Rosko set has three, and perhaps because of this, the 1001 has a beefed up motor. Unlike the F3's both trucks are powered through the same drive shaft.


This is the set I purchased.

The rolling stock is also unusual. When I first obtained a Rosko box car, I noted the differences between it and the standard Nomura box car (see Collecting and Collecting Information 15).

The other two Rosko cars are unique Nomura products. The tank car and the crane car share the same chassis. The crane car features an operating boom with a hand crank.  The hook and line were missing, so I replaced them with jeweler's chain and a bent wire hook.

The loop and hook couplers have an interesting feature. The hooks are all bent to the left, so you can just slide the couplers together. Both the locomotive and the crane only have couplers at one end, so you're kind of limited in how you connect the cars together.

Overall, the set has a striking appearance. Not only are the pieces beautifully lithographed, but there's a lot of extra detail added. The box car has embossed slats; the crane car has an open cab for the boom cable.

The Rosko/Nomura set. Just as great-looking as the box art, I think.

The GMD 1001 has multiple contoured surfaces, with a body that has five separate parts (plus a plastic horn) that needed to be joined by hand. By contrast, the Nomura F3 only has three pieces. It's a great addition to the Straco Display layout, and will probably be the last train set to join the collection. Unless I can find the two-car version in the blue livery, that is...

A great addition to the Sta

Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $238.35

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Straco Express Layout, Part 52 - Nomura Milwaukee Road Flashing Light Diesel

Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

Recently I found -- and purchased -- three Nomura train sets in rapid succession. Individually, each one provided some additional information about Nomura's manufacturing processes and marketing. And collectively, they provided even more. This and the next two Straco Display Layout posts covers these three sets, with some cross-referencing between them.

Part 51 - Nomura Santa Fe Flashing Light Set
Part 52 - Nomura Milwaukee Road Flashing Light Diesel
Part 53 - Nomura/Rosko Flashing Light Train Set

The second of my three purchases was a Nomura Milwaukee Road F3 with flashing lights. As I noted in an earlier post (see Part 36 - Milwaukee Mystery) it's something of a curiosity. The set was apparently made for G.B.C., an importer based in Skokie, Il, using railroad livery that was common to the area.

The packaging is virtually identical to that of the Nomura
Santa Fe flashing light set.
I do have photos of the complete set, which I could compare to the Santa Fe flashing light (FL) set I recently purchased (see Part 51). Both came in a square box, denoting illumination. And both have the same cardboard figure set, as well as the same track and power pack.

I now own two-thirds of the Milwaukee Road set.
The Santa Fe locomotive was in near-mint condition, so I was reluctant to remove the shell to examine the light mechanism. This Milwaukee Road locomotive, though, was in rougher shape. So off came the shell, and I was able to look at this mechanism in detail.

The flashing light mechanism. Underneath the chassis is a
belt drive that connects the powered axle to the light's mount.
It's an ingenious setup. The motor stands on its end, its power gear pointing up. Two gears attached to shafts mesh with that gear. One shaft connects to an axle gear, providing the motive power for the train. The second shaft also descends through the bottom of the chassis. In an enclosure, the shaft drives the light beacon through a belt drive. The drive turns the shaft that the light's mounted on, rotating it.

Here's a short video showing this mechanism in action.


The original belt drive had long since dry rotted, so I had to remove the cover to replace it with a rubber band. And I made an interesting discovery. The flanged wheel of the light beacon was made of recycled metal! I've seen this happen before (see Recycling in Postwar Japan). It's a logical place to reuse lithographed tinplate. With the cover on, it's one piece no one will ever see.

Why is that flange so brightly colored on the inside? It's made of  recycled
lithographed tinplate from something else. 
I'm still missing the Milwaukee Road boxcar that came with this set. Perhaps I'll find one someday. But for now, I'm content to own a Nomura F3 with a different paint scheme -- and the one-of-a-kind gondola car (my research suggests it was only made for this regional set).



Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:
  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $238.35

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Straco Express Layout, Part 51 - Nomura Santa Fe Flashing Light Set

Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

Recently I found -- and purchased -- three Nomura train sets in rapid succession. Individually, each one provided some additional information about Nomura's manufacturing processes and marketing. And collectively, they provided even more. This and the next two Straco Display Layout posts covers these three sets, with some cross-referencing between them.

Part 51 - Nomura Santa Fe Flashing Light Set
Part 52 - Nomura Milwaukee Road Flashing Light Diesel
Part 53 - Nomura/Rosko Flashing Light Train Set

The first of the three sets I purchased was an almost complete example of the Santa Fe train set with flashing lights. The set apparently was never really played with. The engine and rolling stock are in exceptional shape, and all of the cardboard punch-out figures are still attached to the sheet they came in. The only thing missing are two yellow cardboard spacers that centered the power pack in the box.

This set is mostly intact. All that's missing are
two cardboard spacers that fit on either
side of the power pack.
Nomura used two different boxes for their tinplate HO train sets. The non-illuminated sets came in a rectangular box, while the lighted sets came in a square box (as did this one). "Illuminated" is a relative term, in this case.

The tiny bulb mounted in the locomotive is designed to draw very little power (the whole train's designed to be powered by 2 "D" cell batteries). It glowed just enough to be seen (don't try to run this train in the dark). The bulb lights up the side inserts and the green and red plastic shells on the roof (sort of). The box art uses a great deal of artistic license in this area. (see Part 52 for a demo of the flashing light feature).

When I first obtained examples of the cars offered in this set, (see  Collecting and Collecting Information Part 17) postulated that they were made before the ones I had owned as a child. I reasoned that the Mantua-style loop and hook couplers, being much more complex than the simple hook and slot had to be an earlier design. Most manufacturers strive for simplification with successive iterations of a product.

Unfortunately, the engine's light bulb doesn't work, but even if it did,  it would
be too faint to show up in this photograph.

The FL (left) has a set of plastic wheels, while the NL loco
(right) does not. That suggests the NL set was made earlier.
After examining this set, and comparing it with my own, I now believe that the flashing light sets were made after the simpler non-illuminated sets. Here's why:

1) A comparison of the locomotive trucks shows that the flashing light (FL) version uses plastic trucks as opposed to the non-illuminated (NL) one. Plastic was increasingly used in these toys as the 1960s progressed, becoming the material of choice by 1965.

2) A comparison of the tracks showed that the FL track uses plastic ties, while the NL track has fiberboard. This also suggests the FL set is newer.

3) Looking at the two locomotives, it's easy to see that the basic NL locomotive was modified to create the FL version. The cutouts in the shell were done after the lithography was applied. The slots for the rotating light mechanism are also missing from the NL version, suggesting they were added after the original stamper was made for that piece.

The die-cut cardboard figures and scenery were all intact. Nomura used
this sheet in other train sets they offered.

The NL track (left) uses fiberboard.
The FL track (right),uses plastic.
This also suggests the NL set is older.
So there was much to learn from this piece. And, as a bonus, it still had the original price tag. This set sold for $2.98 at Newberrys, sometime in the early 1960s. That price in today's dollars? $24.62 (I paid $32.98 for the set, only $8.36 about the adjusted retail price).

  Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:
  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $238.35

Monday, August 22, 2016

Diabelli Project 123 - Piece for String Orchestra

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.

This week I decided to go for something a little more ambitious. Although with only ten minutes allotted, music for larger forces can be a problem. If I was trying to write something along the lines of Thomas Tallis' "Spem in Alum" for 40 voices, I'd probably only get the first beat written before time ran out.

In this case, all I knew was I wanted something for larger forces, and I wanted to start with everyone in unison. Here's what happened:


As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 016 - Memorial

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

016 Memorial

This toy was another constructed entirely of stacked pieces. And because it's not very tall, it's actually quite stable. I could take my time setting up the shot, and didn't have to worry about accidently bumping the table -- or exhaling.

The instruction sheet calls this structure a memorial. It reminds me of a different type of structure, and one that was pretty rare in the 1930s. I'm not sure I'd really consider this a memorial -- unless it's a memorial for the Unknown Tollbooth Keeper. 


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Trios From Our Homelands

The Lincoln Trio present an intriguing program with this new release. "Trios from our Homelands" presents modern three composers -- Rebecca Clarke (UK), Arno Babajanian (Armenia), and Frank Martin (Switzerland). These trios are all top-drawer compositions, with a lot to offer the listener, especially as played by the trio.

The Lincoln Trio is on fire throughout these works. I heard an exuberance throughout the recording as if the trio were genuinely thrilled to be playing this music. Their performances are both near-perfect technically and warmly expressive. It's a combination that benefits both the music and the listener.

Rebecca Clarke's 1922 trio has some real challenges for the string players, that violinist Desirée Ruhstrat and cellist David Cunliffe seem to just take in stride. The Lincoln Trio doesn't let the complexity of the work get in the way of its expressive qualities, making this one of the most convincing performances of Clarke's chamber music I can remember.

Arno Babajanian was well-known both as a classical and a pop music composer in his native Armenia. His trio is somewhat conservative style -- not surprising for a 1952 work written in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, like Shostakovich and Prokofiev, Babajanian manages to create music of great imagination within the strict confines of Soviet music policy.

Trio sur des mélodies populaires irlandaises by Frank Martin does indeed use Irish folk melodies. But don't expect an Irish Rovers medley. Martin breaks down the melodies into small elements that serve as building blocks for some very sophisticated constructions. The Irishishness of the music isn't totally lost, but it's just a small aspect of this wonderfully complex work

Trios From Our Homelands
Rebecca Clarke; Arno Babajanian; Frank Martin
Lincoln Trio
Cedille CDR 90000 165

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Peter Lieuwen Concertos - Buoyant and Animated

This is a release I'd like to keep on hand for all those curmudgeons who complain that contemporary classical music is ugly and unlistenable. Peter Lieuwen's compositions are anything but.

There's a certain exuberance in his music that I find appealing. My impression is that Lieuwen isn't concerned with discovering new sounds never heard before -- he just wants to create the best music possible using the tools already at hand.

And in that, I think he succeeds. While his music is decidedly tonal, it's also contemporary in character and form. And while it's accessible to the first-time listener, the music's substantial enough to merit repeated plays.

The first movement of Lieuwen's 2012 Cello Concerto is marked "buoyant and animated," and that's exactly how cellist Nicholas Jones plays it. I found the cello's tone a little pinched, but I think that was more the fault of the recording than the playing. The 2008 Concerto for Piano, Marimba, and Orchestra was written for brothers Leonel and Jesus Morales (piano and marimba, respectively). It's an unusual combination of solo instruments, but one that works really well.

Lieuwen actually uses both vibraphone and marimba as solo keyboard percussion instruments. Both are used quite effectively. This is a concerto that should definitely enter the repertoire. The solo passages for keyboard percussion and the piano have a give-and-take to them that (I assume) is a musical expression of the brothers' relationship. I got the impression this concerto would be great fun to see live.

If you're a fan of the new traditionalists, such as Kevin Puts or Carter Pann, I think you'll find much to enjoy in the music of Peter Lieuwen.

Peter Lieuwen: Concertos
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra: Nicholas Jones, cello; Slovak National Symphony Orchestra; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
Romance for Violin, Cello, and Piano; Andrzej Grabiec, violin; Misha Quint, cello; Carlo Alessandro Labenga, piano
Vivace for String Orchestra: Slovak National Symphony Orchestra; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
 Concerto for Piano, Marimba, and Orchestra: Leonel Morales, piano; Jesus Morales, marimba; Texas Music Festival Orchestra; Franz Anton Krager, conductor
World Premier Recordings
MSR Classics MS1582

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lio on the Trail

In his Lio strip of February 23, 2016, Mark Tatulli pays tribute to Jack Elrod, the second artist of Mark Trail. Creator Ed Dodd wrote and drew the strip from 1946 to 1978 before handing it over the Elrod. Elrod continued with Mark Trail until he retired in 2014.

Tatulli's tribute is uniquely Lio-esque, as it breaks the barriers between comic strips. It's a recurring theme with Tatulli and one that works quite well here.


Of course, Mark Trail now has a new artist -- James Allen -- who I think has done a great deal to revitalize the strip. Perhaps Mark Trail would have a different reaction to mice, now.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Diabelli Project 122 - Duet for Flute and Clarinet

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.

This week's flash composition is a duet for flute and B-flat clarinet. In a way, it's similar to Bartok's violin and viola duets. Like Bartok, I used two different (though near-related key centers) and two different meters (although both have two strong beats per measure). This sketch flowed quickly, and it's an idea I'd like to further explore -- though without the time constraints I think I'd make an effort to be more original and less Bartokian.


As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 015 - City Hall

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

015. City Hall

When you're stacking lightweight pieces, lower is better. This toy isn't very tall, so it's relatively stable. And that made it easy to build.

For the first time in while (see the last few posts), I could agree with what the instruction sheet called this toy. Sure, this could be a city hall -- a brand new 1930 art deco city hall that is. And I'm definitely fine with that.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Discovering the Classical String Trio

As the Vivaldi Project points out in the liner notes for this release, string trios from the classical era are woefully under-represented in the performing and recording repertoire. It's not because instrumental grouping's unusual -- there were hundreds of string trios written between 1750 and 1827 (the approximate dates of the classical era). And, as this recording shows, it's not because only one or two were worth performing.

The Vivaldi Project presents a snapshot of an era with a delightful mix of both major and minor composers. As expected, the string trios of Boccherini, Haydn, and Johann Christian Bach are finely-crafted works.

But so are those of the lesser-know composers in this program. Carlo Campioni, a student of Tartini, is only known through his few published string trios. By contrast, Christian Cannabich, Stamitz' successor at Mannheim, is (relatively) famous for his symphonies and violin concertos.

Felici Giardini, an Italian composer, and colleague of JC Bach was known more for his operas and chamber music. Giuseppe Cambini, who made his fortune in Paris, is best remembered as a symphonic composer (although he also wrote over 100 string quartets).

It's a fascinating program. Although all the works were written within the same style period, each composer has a different idea of how these three instruments should interact. Their melodic styles are significantly different as well, which helps create a varied and engaging program. And for me, there were a few surprises. I was particularly taken by the beautiful melodies of Cambini.

The Vivaldi Project are masterful early music performances. They have a clean ensemble sound, that's precise, yet fluid and responsive. This release reveals a new side of favorite composers such as Haydn or Boccherini and showcases some outstanding works by unfamiliar talents. For me, the Vivaldi Project's succeeded in their goal. This is definitely music that needs to be explored more thoroughly.

Discovering the Classical String Trio
Johann Christian Bach: Sonata in D major, B. 36; Carlo Antonio Campioni: sonata in G minor, Op. 1, No. 2; Luigi Boccherini: Trio in D major, Op. 2, No. 4; Franz Joseph Haydn: Divertimento in B minor, Hob.V:III; Christian Cannabich: Tio in B-flat major, Op. 3, No. 1; Giuseppe Maria Cambini: Trio Concertant in A major, Op. 33, No. 1
The Vivaldi Project
MSR Classics 1621

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Leopold Mozart Re-examined

Today, he's primarily known as Mozart's father. But in his day, Leopold Mozart was a respected composer and performer in his own right. As Friedrich Marpurg noted in his 1757 “Historical-Critical Contributions,"

"As regards the number of finished musical works, [Leopold Mozart] may be placed side by side with the two composers Scarlatti and Telemann, diligent and renowned in equal measure.”

This new release supports that assertion, I think. It presents three facets of Leopold's compositions. (The fame of his son so overshadows that I feel I have to refer to Leopold by his first name to avoid confusion with THE Mozart.) Included are a serenade, and concerto, and a symphony, representing light music, solo instrumental writing, and a complex work.

Serenades, by nature, are lightweight works, designed for an evening's entertainment (and in some cases, background music). Leopold's serenade runs true to form. Short movements with simple, catchy tunes. To my ears, this work seems on par with  W.A. Mozart's serenades and divertimenti.

The 1752 concerto for two horns and strings is a well-crafted work. Leopold demands a lot from his soloists. The melodies employ a lot of step-wise motion (no mean feat with a valveless horn), and there is some particularly interesting rhythmic interplay between the two instruments.

The Symphony in G major is the "New" Lambach Symphony. For a while was thought have been written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Current scholarship attributes it to Leopold. The 20 minute piece is a fully-developed rococco symphony. When it was assumed to by W.A. Mozart, its quality was unquestioned. As a Leopold composition, it makes one rethink the assumption that Leopold was but a mediocre talent.

The Baverian Chamber Philharmonic, under the baton of Reinhard Goebel, turn in first-rate performances of these works. If you only know Leopold through recordings of his "Toy" Symphony, this may cause you to revise your opinion of the elder Mozart.

Leopold Mozart: Serenata in D major LMV VIII:9; Concerto in E-flat for 2 horns LMV IX:9; Sinfonia in G major (Neue Lambacher) LMV VII:G16)
Aljoscha Zierow, trumpet; Fabrice Millischer, trombone; Carsten Duffin, horn; Philipp Römer, horn
bayerische kammerphilharmonie, Reinhard Goebel, conductor
OEHMS Classics OC 1844

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Straco Express Layout, Part 50 - Pump It Up

Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

As time goes on, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find appropriate items for the Straco Display Layout. I could keep accumulating Japanese tinplate friction cars -- the variety is almost endless, even within the strict parameters of the project. But clutter is never attractive. I'm really only looking (and only casually looking at that) for unusual items that will bring something different to the display.

Structures are even more difficult to find. The Japanese toy train sets that form the core of the display were sold as self-contained items. There are virtually no accessories for these pieces. But there were many toys made by these Japanese companies that were all about the same size that can serve the same purpose. Like the gas station.

Although this tinplate gas station was sold as is, I strongly suspected it came with a friction car. Since my purchase, I found a similar example online that I think confirms this suspicion. As you can see, the boxed example has a vehicle included.

This set would have been a really nice addition, but it was *way* over
my budget for this project.
 And note the resemblance between the boxed station and the one I bought. If they're not made by the same company, then it's possible that one company copied the other.

Construction is a little different, but otherwise, they're mirror images.
The boxed set has no indication of a manufacturer, and neither does the station that I purchased.  Nevertheless, it does add something to the display and looks pretty good with some of the smaller vehicles. The boxed set had a three-wheeled friction car with it. In the layout photos below, I also used a three-wheeled car of roughly the same size.


Total cost for the project:

Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:
  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $238.35

Monday, August 08, 2016

Diabelli Project 121 - Piano Piece

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.

I decided to start with a ground this week and see where it lead. OK, I'm no Henry Purcell, but I think it worked out pretty well. Had I not run out of time, I would have kept adding complexity to the  top three voices. When time ran out, I was wondering how to change the tonal center -- without changing the ground. An easy way would be to slip from G major (two sharps) to G minor (two flats).

It would have been more interesting to just re-interpret the function of the notes. Instead of the G in the bass being the root of the chord, what if it was the third? Or the fifth? Or even the seventh or ninth. I think this is a sketch I'll revisit sometime soon.


As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 014 - Monument

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

014. Monument

Construction of this toy was pretty easy. I might be getting better at handling these tiny, lightweight parts with my fat, adult fingers. And it was fairly sturdy as well.

This was another toy that wasn't named what I expected. I guess I expect my monuments to be more monolithic. Sure, this could be a monument, I suppose. But to me, it looks like a New York City skyscraper on the Hudson River -- with yacht piers.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

Sharon Bezaly dazzles with an unusual program

The latest release from flutist Sharon Bezaly (number 35 by my count) doesn't seem to have a very attractive program -- at least on paper. The disc contains an arrangement of a work for flute and orchestra, plus two not-so-very-different versions of the same concerto.

But music isn't about words, it's about sound. And once I started listening, I quickly revised my opinion.

Sharon Bezaly has been named one of the best flutists in the world many times over by critics -- and with good reason. Her tone is pure and warm, with rock-solid pitch control. And her musicality is first-rate; she manages to make each work her own while seemingly transparently conveying the composer's intentions. This release is no exception.

Aram Kachaturian completed his violin concerto in 1940, and it's an arrangement of this work that opens the program. But it's not just an arrangement. In 1968 Jean-Pierre Rampal, with Kachaturian's blessing, transcribed the solo part for flute. Rampal also provided a new cadenza as well. Bezaly's performance is brimming with energy and good spirits and ably assisted by Enrique Diemecke and the São Paulo Symphony.Orchestra.

The rest of the album consists of the 1975 Flute Concerto by the late Einojuhani Rautavaara -- both versions. The original version of the concerto features four different flutes; the standard flute, the piccolo flute, the alto flute, and the bass flute. Rautavaara gives each instrument its own character. Not only do the timbres of the different flutes provide contrast, but the music itself changes whenever the soloist switches instruments.

Bowing to repeated requests from flutists, Rautavaara revisited the work and eliminated the bass flute, a somewhat rare instrument (compared to the other flutes). He reassigned the part to the alto flute. This revised version finishes up the album. It's a rare opportunity to compare two versions of the same work side-by-side. Bezaly's performance is pretty consistent, as is Dima Slobodeniouk's conducting of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, The playing times for the two versions differ by only six seconds.

Even though I went back and forth between the two versions many times, I didn't hear any major differences. The bass flute, because of its lower range sounded much darker and more somber than the alto flute in comparable passages, but I found the alto flute version just as satisfying musically.

In either version, it's a stunning concerto and one that seems tailor-made for Bezaly's talent. Her command of all the instruments is impeccable. I was particularly impressed with her performance with the piccolo. It never sounded shrill, even in rapid passages at loud volume levels. Somehow she kept the tone rounded and, well, musical.

An unusual program for sure, but one I found deeply satisfying as a listener. Beautifully recorded and beautifully performed.

Sharon Bezaly Plays Flute Concertos by Khachaturian and Rautavaara
Sharon Bezaly, flute
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra; Enrique Diemecke, conductor (Khachaturian)
Lahti Symphony Orchestra; Dima Slobodeniouk, conductor (Rautavaara)
Aram Khachaturian: Concerto for Flute and Orchestra
Einojuhani Rautavaara: Flute Concerto, Op. 69 "Dances with the Winds"; original version for four flutes; revised version for three flutes
BIS Recordings BIS-1849