Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Digitizing LPs -- the hidden cost

RCA's answer to BS&T, ca. 1969. Do I really need to
have this on my iPod? (probably)
I own some LPs that are not likely to be available either on CD or (legal) digital downloads anytime soon -- if ever. That was OK - I figured I would eventually get a turntable with USB output and make the conversions myself.

I had an opportunity to do that recently, and on the whole the system worked fine. What I had forgotten about, though, was that the transfer process had to happen in real time. If the total playing time of the LP was 40 minutes, then the transfer time would be 40 minutes.

After doing two or three of the albums, I started to do some serious evaluation of my analog-to-digital project. I have about 100 albums that have no digital versions available (let me stress again, legally). So with an average playing time of about 35 minutes a platter, that's about 58 hours -- or almost two and half straight days -- of transfer time. And then I have to do some work on the tracks, which take about another 30-40 minutes per album, so make that about 116 hours. That's a little over two 40-hour work weeks.

Hmmm. This will have to be an extremely long-term project, and/or I'll need to seriously re-evaluate how many of these long-lost gems I really want to add to my digital library.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Comics Crossover - Barney & Clyde

I always appreciate cross-references between comics. Done well, they can add to the humor of the strip. And they're a nice treat for folks (like me) who appreciate the genre. Sometimes the references are subtle, other times not.

This past Sunday Barney & Clyde decided to go for the obvious. (click on the image to enlarge)

As you can see, this is one tough focus group. And what I appreciate about it is that it's carefully constructed to communicate the gag to the widest possible audience.

Older comics readers will recognize George Wilson from Dennis the Menace, and J.C. Dithers, Dagwood's boss in Blondie. Casual readers will spot Wally from Dilbert, and Lucy from Peanuts. And those who prefer newer comics will be glad to find Pearls Before Swine's Rat, Earl, co-star of Pickles, and Bucky, star of Get Fuzzy.

Something for everyone, no matter how slight or deep your knowledge of comic strips might be. Another carefully constructed panel, to be read in a matter of seconds. But still worth a second look.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Old Problems, New Solutions

As a friend recently pointed out, if you want to stay out of politics, don't go to church.

Well, that's true, but perhaps not in the way you think. Congregations, like other organizations and groups, are made up of individuals. And that means that congregations are just as likely to have personality disputes, minor disagreements that can grow large and divisive, harmful rumors and gossip, and all the other things that happen in a group dynamic.

It's not anything new, of course John, writing in Revelation evaluates seven churches in Asia minor (Rev 2-4). And, sure enough, they had the same problems.

While "church politics" might be identical to "office politics," I think we have a unique challenge. And that is to behave differently.

What to do when someone says something hurtful about you? In the office, it might be cause for a hurtful comment back -- or perhaps some other kind of payback. As a Christian, though, I'm called to forgive.

And what about disagreements between two groups? As with academia, the infighting can get vicious because the stakes are so low. But just like at work (or at home) it's easy to get caught up in keeping score. Which means there are winners and losers.

The challenge (if I'm to emulate Christ) is to let go of all that. For a lot of issues, not worrying about winners and losers opens up other solutions -- even compromises.

And the real challenge is to remember to forgive. I may have heated discussions with other members of the congregation about things, but afterwards I think charged to come back together as a church family. A loving one, not a disfunctional one, either.

The problems may be the same as those of secular organizations, but my reactions should be different. And with any luck, I'll take what I've learned and apply it to interactions in those other organizations. It's a challenge, but one I need to accept.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

eBay -- Knowing when to quit

Oh well, better luck next time.
I just walked away from an eBay item I was bidding on. And it was very hard.

In my post eBay Reality I talked about the importance (at least for me) of knowing the total cost of an item. I ran across this Industrial Rail work caboose that I thought would be a nice addition to my O Gauge Zen Garden. (the actual item doesn't matter for the point I'm making)

The opening bid was $0.99, which seemed a like a good deal. Shipping was $9.49. Now we're not talking about an especially rare or collectible item here. The Industrial Rail rolling stock isn't on par with Lionel for desirability. Mostly they're wanted by operators who want to add cars to their trains (that's actually why the line was produced).

The Industrial Rail pieces I've accumulated have all come from the big toy train meets in York, PA. Most of them I purchased for $10 - $15, which is a fair price.

Throughout most of the auction, I was the only bidder, so it looked like the $0.99 offer would hold. But in my mind, I wasn't offering $0.99, I was offering $10.48 which included the shipping cost. It was the total amount I was obliged to pay. I had even set my max bid to $10.00, or $19.99 total. It was a little higher than I was used to paying, but not too much higher.

The current bid is $10.50, which topped my bid. It was tempting to go to $11.00. After all, I was used to paying up to $15 for these things. But with shipping, that would have pushed it to $20.99, and that's over my limit. So rather than up it to $11.00, then $11.50, and then who knows what, I'm not responding.

Taking into account the total cost has saved me from many Pyrrhic bidding victory.

Friday, January 27, 2012

CCC 015 - Walter Ross

American composer Walter Ross is next on our Consonant Classical Challenge.

Walter Ross is an affable man who, as he tells it, had an epiphany early in his career. Ross was sitting in the audience of the new music concert, waiting for his work to be performed. As he looked around the sparsely-filled house, he realized that the only people in the audience were the composers and performers of the other works on the program, each waiting for their turn. It was at that point that Ross made the conscious choice to write music that was accessible to the general public.

He's kept that vow, while composing works that are well-worth listening to -- and performing. Ross is a French horn player, and has written extensively for brass instruments and brass ensembles. Listenability and playability are the two hallmarks of Ross's style.

His piano concerto is a good example. The solo part lays well on the keyboard, and the orchestral parts are all idiomatically written. Here's the first movement of the Walter Ross Piano Concerto.

Unfortunately, most of Ross' recordings and videos are of his brass music. Still they're representative of the type of music he writes for orchestral forces. From a recent performance, here's a work for trombone quartet. Again, note how  Ross uses his specialized knowledge of the instrument to create music that uses the trombone to best advantage.

alter Ross has devoted a life to not just composing the best possible music he can from a technical standpoint, but music that also communicates with an audience. Why isn't his music performed more often? I'm sure the brass section would love to.

Recommended recordings 

Walter Ross: Three Concertos

Walter Ross: Brass Trios

Ross/Schwantner/Penn: Works for Tuba

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Johannes Eccard: Sacred & Secular Songs

Johannes Eccard: Sacred & Secular Works 
Opella Musica
Ensemble NOEMA
Gregor Meyer, director

Although not a household name, Johannes Eccard can hardly be called an obscure composer. Active during the latter half of the 16th century,

Eccard's vocal music was held in high regard by other composers -- especially German composers, from Johann Sebastian Bach through Brahms. In his own lifetime, he was seen as the Protestant answer to Palestrina (and his music was considered just as good).

This new collection of Eccard's sacred and secular works justifies that assessment. Eccard studied with Orlando de Lassus. The secular works show Lassus' influence. Eccard sets his texts in a similar style, letting the nature of the words dictate the shape of the melody whenever possible.  And his polyphonic sacred works show the same facility for counterpoint as Lassus. The lines flow naturally, weaving in and out of each other creating marvelous patterns that sound neither academic nor contrived.

Also included are some of Eccard's works for the fledgling Protestant movement. His settings of the simple congregational hymn tunes show great imagination, while remaining true to the melody. Eccard's original hymns have simple, straight-forward patterns, but are written with rich harmonic possibilities for Eccard (and later on other composers) to explore.

Cudos to Gregor Meyer and his ensembles for presenting this music. Their performances are clean and unaffected, letting the structure of the music come through clearly. Listening to this recording, it's easy to understand why Bach closely studied Eccard's music.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Diplomat Raymond Comes to Town

As if yesterday's missive from the Central Bank of Nigeria wasn't enough, another arrived today that was even more impressive. The subject line read:

(I'm deliberately blocking out the email and phone so as not to tempt someone to contact them out of curiosity)

Well, that got my attention! My very own diplomat?! Tell me more!

The text of the email did just that:
This is to notify you that your funds USD 2.2M has been programmed for  immediate release into your nominated account but we can not transfer this funds direct to your nominated bank account, because we are having a little problem with International Monetary Fund (IMF) so our method of payment is via Diplomatic Courier Service.Contact him now, his name (Dip Raymond Edward) for the release of your fund through diplomatraymond@[email address] )or call (XXX-900-XXXX).
 Wow! 2.2 million dollars! I better contact my diplomat right away!

There are a few details of interest about this particular Nigerian 419 scam. First off, the official-sounding email address. "diplomatraymond" Really? I'm sure that's just how they assign them at the State Department. "Sure, your Excellency, just email me at diplomatjoe@state.gov."

And the use of a 900 telephone number is a nice touch. Even if someone calls out of curiosity intending to listen just for a second (and what are the odds that they won't be kept on the phone as long as possible?) the scammer makes a little cash. And sadly, there's no doubt in my mind that this number's been dialed more than once (which is why I redacted most of it).

Maybe it is time Frank Drake came out of retirement...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Surprise, Indeed!

This must be phishing season. Hard on the heels of the Dunkin Donut offer, I received an even more unusual request. It was from the Central Bank of Nigeria. And the subject line was the following (with nothing in the body of the email):

I know that you might be surprise on this mail, but I am telling you the truth. What I want to tell you is about your fund with the Federal Government of Nigeria. I will explain to you in full details when you get back to me with my private email at: [email address].
Well, might be surprise, indeed! It completely slipped my mind that I had deposited money in a foreign bank. Especially Nigeria.

It's been a while since we've had some virtual fun, and I'm tempted to respond. But as who? Frank Drake? Alf Monroe? Roy Rogers? Or perhaps it's time for someone new to enter the scene. Suggestions welcome!

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Dunkin Donuts Decoy

I received the following message via email this morning:
Amazing!, DunkinDonuts is gifting out free gift cards. Hurry up, Do not waste any time. Here is webpage - [shortened URL w/redirect] Theres only 5 left!!!

I know not whether it may be worth observing, that the HOUYHNHNMS If this new phase was spontaneous, or in any way due to her peace. I therefore hoped they would not treat me as an enemy, 
I didn't post the actual web address on purpose -- in case someone might be tempted to click on it "to see what would happen."

But I must say as a phishing email goes, this one's pretty strange. It starts off well enough, then devolves into I don't know what. HOUYHNHNMS is a puzzle. Could it be the transliteration of a foreign term?

If this is the state of spamming these days, then I'm very disappointed. And so is Frank Drake.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Worship and Study -- Two Halves of a Whole

I'm sure our church isn't much different than many others. We have an hour of Sunday School followed by an hour of worship. A lot of people just show up for church. Most parents drop their children off at Sunday School, then come back and pick them up (and sometimes stay for worship).

And that's unfortunate, because those are two examples of people only getting half of what they need.

First off, a quick word about "Sunday School." It's a term that conjures up little kids singing "Jesus Loves Me" and learning about Noah and the ark. But it's really Christian education that happens on Sunday mornings -- and that education is open for all ages. Including adults. Christian education can also include evening bible studies, weekend retreats, trips, and other activities. And it can include simple lessons on familiar topics, or an in-depth scholarly exegesis. So with all that in mind, let's get back to our two groups of people: those that attend worship, and those that only attend Sunday School (or rather think that's all their kids need).

Worship without Christian Education
Worship's important, of course, but why? That's a question that Christian Education (CE) explores. And the words recited every Sunday -- the Apostle's Creed, Lord's Prayer, etc. -- what do they mean? Some CE studies look at those texts line by line and provide insight into our basic beliefs. Every element of worship means something -- and without understanding that meaning, one's worship experience can be superficial. And worse yet, you might not even be aware of it.

Christian Education without Worship
So what about the kids being dropped off at Sunday School? Well, it's one thing to study scripture and worship practices, but without attending services, what's the point. Worship provides the context for that knowledge. And something else -- when parents don't attend Sunday School themselves, they send the message that it isn't really that important (or at best, it's something only kids do).

Wrong and wrong. One of the best things about CE is that it's usually not a solitary activity. In the discussions that take place one usually gets different viewpoints -- sometimes challenging viewpoints. Adult Sunday School teachers in our church often talk about how they end up learning as much (if not more) than the classes they lead. And the fellowship can help bring congregations together.

We'll be working on this problem at our church this year. Too many of us are only getting half of the whole.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The context of ice

This was our front yard this morning. Brrr.
Normally on Saturdays we spend the first part of the day cleaning house and working on a long-term project -- such as cleaning the attic. There's always the option of doing other things of course, but we generally don't. Today we had an ice storm -- which meant we couldn't go anywhere (safely, that is).

So we spent the day cleaning and working. Funny thing, though. Although we didn't do anything different, it felt different.

I didn't realize just having the option (whether taken or not) made that much difference.

Friday, January 20, 2012

CCC 014 - Eric Ewazen

The Consonant Classical Challenge continues with American composer Eric Ewazen. Ewazen's best known for his chamber music, particularly his compositions for brass. His work, "Daimond World" proved to be a big hit (in the classical music sense of the word) with the Ahn Trio.

While Ewazen uses the language of popular music (rock, jazz, pop) he's still very much a classical composer. His catalog is rich with innovative chamber works, as well as a number of concertos for solo instruments that challenge the solo performer.

A better example of Ewazen's style can be found in his "Philharmonic Fanfare." Its gestures are a little more classical-mainstream, although as you'll hear, Ewazen's not just playing it safe. The work has an authentic energy to it that makes the perfect work to open a concert.

Unfortunately, there aren't many examples of Ewazen's orchestral music available online (in fact, I only found this one video). But he's written a substantial amount for orchestra. Here's the slow movement of his violin concerto. Surely some violinist would be interested in performing it instead of the Bruch first concerto (again)...

In my opinion, Ewazen's music is perfectly balanced between two groups of potential listeners. His incorporation of the general musical language found in other genres makes his music relevant to younger audiences. At the same time, his straight-forward and accessible classical style should appeal to older, more conservative audiences. All they have to do is listen.

Recommended Recordings: 

Orchestral Music & Concertos by Eric Ewazen

Chamber Music by Eric Ewazen

Ahn Trio: Ahn-Plugged

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Several major sites on the Internet went dark yesterday to protest SOPA. In addition to raising awareness about the issue, the darkening of Wikipedia also sparked an amusing -- if tightly focused -- hashtag subject on Twitter. Without Wikipedia to check facts, what misinformation might be spread about classical music? And so tweets with the hashtag #ClassicalFactsWithoutWiki flew fast and furious yesterday.

The tweets seem to have started from KUSC, with at least three announcers participating early on. But it soon spread, as you can see from the entries below. The first grouping are all the tweets (except mine) and the second grouping is just my own contributions.

I admit that for the average person, these won't seem like much. But if you're into classical music -- enjoy!

(all of these tweets are in reverse chronological order)

After meeting Freud, Mahler replaced the Mater Gloriosa of his 8th Symphony with the better known Alma Mater.

Tim Senior
Tchaikovsky wrote his 1812 overture in the form of a cannon.

hayasa tanaka
Boccherini is the cheese, Bocconcini is the composer.

hayasa tanaka
Johann and Richard Strauss are related.

David Das
Ravel's Bolero actually an orchestration of Mussorgsky's 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.

David Das Barber's
Essays for orchestra all written during after-school detention.

David Das
Copland found it devastatingly hard to get Lincoln to sit still for his portrait.

George Wallace
Arvo Pärt's brother Arlo wrote a 'Cantus in Memoriam Ristorante Alyesha'. Also more often than not got the girl.

Tim Senior
Post-minimalism was invented when Steve Reich's fax machine broke down.

Tim Senior
Johann Strauss couldn't count up to 4.

Brian Lauritzen
After lighting the fuse, most cellists choose to stand in front of Pachelbel's Canon.

George Wallace
Will Rogers loved opera, and the first draft of his catchphrase was: "I never mezzo soprano I didn't like."

Rich Ching
Filet du Regiment was a failed opera about a steak in the military.

George Wallace
The 12 tone system developed because Schoenberg had an extra, vestigial digit on each hand.

Rich Ching
The Ring Cycle has a happy ending.

Jennifer Grim
Pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck also wrote the opera, Hansel and Gretel!

Rich Ching
Don Giovanni was a character from The Godfather.

Rich Ching
Boheme was modeled after RENT.

Rich Ching
Puccini, Verdi, and Donizetti are kinds of pasta.

Rich Ching
Werther was named after the candy.

Beethoven planned a 10th symphony, a prequel that would have been based on Schiller's "Ode to Smug Satisfaction"

Tim Senior
80% of Phillip Glass works have a missing repeat mark.Trombones can only be played by pathologists.

George Wallace A loophole in Viennese law allowed Pachelbel to purchase his famous Canon at a gun show w/out a background check.

Kevin Zhang
Boston's Greenhouse Apartments houses 80% of all resident botanists at the neighboring New England Conservatory

Gail Eichenthal
Mahler WOULD have finished his 10th Symph. but his cellphone rang.

Brian Lauritzen
John Cage wrote a completion for Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, but I bet you haven't heard it.

caroline davies
While touring Italy on a Vespa, Vaughn Williams wrote ' The Wasps'.

George Chambers
All of Finnissy's trademark piano pieces are written by drunkenly throwing himself onto the keyboard.

Debussy's "Music is the silence between notes," intellectual property stolen by John Cage. Ah, 1942 clarified.

Brian Lauritzen
The score for John Cage's 4'33" is marked fortissimo.

Beethoven thought he'd get a small role in "Saturday Night Fever" so he let them rock a Fifth

Brian Lauritzen
Janitors at Disney Hall are only allowed to clean with magic brooms.

Brian Lauritzen
Orig sketches for Disney Hall included teacups for seats and "It's a Small World" playing on loop in the lobby.

Classical KUSC He was caught plagiarizing Bach works & decided to take the sting away by legally changing his name to Offenbach.

Johann Helmich Roman laid the foundation of modern musical life in Sweden, creating ABBA. Drottningholmsmusiken

Chris Cresswell
John Cage wrote 4'33" late one night, after completely forgetting he had a commission due the next morning.

Betsy Kardos
"Amadeus" is a musical in which Mozart sues the British rock band Queen for plagiarism.

Betsy Kardos Mussorgsky wrote "Night on Bald Mountain" after a "Hangover"-type experience at a Hair Club for Men convention.

As well as being a gifted violinist, the young Mozart was a tumbler in a circus act.

Rebecca Cweibel
The trombone was originally made from a bone found only in invisible cartoon elementary school teachers.

Classical KUSC
Leonard Bernstein ranks 3rd in appearances on The Match Game after Charles Nelson Reilly & Richard Dawson.

Rebecca Cweibel
It's called an "organ" because it requires donation of a bodily one to stay in tune and play in time

Isaac Schankler
Chuck Berry wrote "Johnny B. Goode" as a tribute to John Cage, which is why the song is 4 min. and 33 sec. long

tenor of illusions
Beethoven did not write any music for the guitar.

Chip Michael
Andrew Lloyd Webern, after establishing the second Viennese School, established the school for classical cats

Miss Music Nerd
The riot at the premiere of Le Sacre was actually sparked by a patron in the front row accepting a telegram

Alex Sramek
Clara Schumann was known to take out mafia contracts on unruly audience members.

Cage's working title for 4'33" was "0.075833333333333333 hours."

Jay Harvey
When Sergei Prokofiev was a starving student, he wrote an opera called "The Love for Two Oranges"

Vivaldi's lesser-known fifth season: Road Construction--Largo, non con moto.

Ronni Reich
Madame Butterfly is the sequel to Puccini's little-known early opera "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"

Noel Garwood
Queenies and Phil the Greeks jubilee barge used to belong to Rosie and Jim.

Classical KUSC
The 'Period Instrument' movement had its roots in Middle School, when there was limited availability to play.

Brian Lauritzen
Interestingly, Rudolph Kempe also had a very shiny nose.

Composer Johann Heinichen changed the spelling of his name after inventing - and drinking too much - lager.

Classical KUSC
As of this date, no one has asked composer John Adams if he is related to the US President of the same name.

Gail Eichenthal
Schubert's Gretchen am Spinnrade was inspired by a fetching Whirling Dervish, the toast of Vienna in the 1820's

David Weininger
In honor of Bruckner's slow, winding symphonies, New York named a perpetually clogged expressway after him.

Mahleria is a fatal disease that sets in within two hours of listening to the Symphony of a Thousand.

Kelsey Walsh
A Cappella: just a couple-a people singing.

Brian Lauritzen
Olivier Messiaen wrote the music for Nintendo's Duck Hunt.

Alyssa Brode
puccini wrote the role of lauretta, originally a 10 year old girl, for jackie evancho.

Kelsey Walsh
Carlo Gesualdo was an Italian criminal hiding in a conservatory, masquerading as a composer of the avant guarde.

Matthew Guerrieri
Maurice Ravel once killed a man just to watch him die. The man was was Vincent D'Indy.

Alyssa Brode
schumann went insane from hearing lmfao's "party rock anthem" over and over in his head.

Classical KUSC
Mendelssohn named the Ge-Wand-Haus Orchestra because of his love for Olivander in the Harry Potter series.

Matthew Guerrieri
Lauritz Melchior was the inspiration for the popular cartoon character "Garfield."

Chip Michael
Gustav "Mahler" was originally a WWF wrestler before he began conducting

Carly Rose Gillis
Actually, Richard Wagner invented the internet.

Haydn Sikh was a popular game among Viennese children in the Classical era.

Howlin' Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart grew up in the Mississippi Delta before moving to Detroit in 1948.

Eric Gewirtz
Like the Giants and Jets, the New York Philharmonic plays in New Jersey

Michael Hamad Wow: Claude Debussy was French Canadian??

Blue Derkin
Beethoven spent an afternoon in jail in San Dimas but got out in time to help Bill & Ted pass the history report

Geoffrey Burleson
Strauss' "Metamorphosen", based on Kafka's short story, was originally titled "Song of Samsa the Cockroach."

Classical KUSC
R.Schumann went crazy when Clara & Brahms would not let him join their reindeer games.

Brian Lauritzen Actually, Gershwin prefers to fly Delta.

The Guidonian Hand is to earthly music notation as the Greedonian Foot is to intergalactic thug semiotics

Geoffrey Burleson
If Schoenberg hadn't been a 12-toed mutant, he would have instead devised the 10-tone system.

Brian Lauritzen
Delius hated orange juice. Abe Christian Josquin Des Prez wrote the first polyphonic setting of the Mass Ordinary.

Arnold Schoenberg developed the 12 tone system 'cause it just makes sense when you have 12 toes.

Abe Christian
Astor Piazzolla: composer/performer wrote a tango based opera! Maria de Buenos Aires! Also a bandoneón virtuoso

Classical KUSC
Die Fledermaus is Strauss Jr's opera about an extreme sports loving Rodent.

Jackie P Verdi's
La Traviata: A three hour vocal lesson on how to sing through your end stage tuberculosis.

Brett Baldwin
Young Beethoven traveled forward in time to play the role of Jake on Two and a Half Men.

Abe Christian
Carmina Burana: Carl Orff. A collection of Medieval poems and songs set to a glorious homophonic orchestra.

Classical WQED-FM Bach sold used cars on the side.

USC Ice Hockey
#Beethoven was a #StBernard famed for his musical acuity and ability.

USC Ice Hockey
Rachmaninoff turned to music after retiring from the #KHL due to a career-ending lower-body injury.

Elise VDB
Schubert didn't finish his 8th Symphony because he had to save some material for the sequel

Smelsey McDonalds Bach's working title was "Gloria in-a Smelsey's Deo"

Gail Eichenthal
Fur Elise was Beethoven's touching homage to his favorite female teddy bear

Mirto Picchi
Messa di voce is when a singer really makes a messa things.

Elise VDB
Beethoven wrote Für Elise just for me

Classical KUSC
Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata was intended only to be played on the Piano of a Carpenter.

David Das
First draft of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini actually based on Heart and Soul.

Classical KUSC
A Contralto argues with all the other Altos over who's flat. // Zing!

David Das
Mr. Holland's Opus ghostwritten by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Elise VDB
La différence entre un violon et un alto: un demi-ton

David Das
John Cage's 4:33 written during a 4:33 smoke break from real composing

David Das
Original working title for West Side Story? Romeo and Juliet: Reloaded.

Classical KUSC
Copland's love for the suspension from a defunct W.V. Ford Motor Co. factory resulted in Appalachian Spring.

Elise VDB
Tuba players only need to know how to make two notes to play Carmen's overture

Elise VDB
Beethoven was so deaf he lived his whole life believing he was a paintor

Classical KUSC
Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah was about the casting of his favorite Hobbit in #LotR.

Brian Lauritzen
Ben Jonson wrote most of Verdi's operas.

Elise VDB
Catalani's "Ebben ne andro lontano" is his only good aria because he had Puccini's helping hand for it.

Geoffrey Burleson
Messiaen knew 158 different Elk calls, which he used as motivic material in his music.

Brian Lauritzen
Most professional violinists are just failed violists.

Brian Lauritzen
Ferde Grofé never visited the Grand Canyon.

Rodrigo Ruiz
The triangle (percussion) is shaped like 1 because the manufacturers figured it used less materials than a square

Robert Vijay Gupta
Brahms sent his C minor pno 4tet to publisher w picture of a man holding a pistol to his head.

Classical KUSC
Chausson died while training for the Tour De France.

Ben Horrigan
Beethoven completed nine symphonies; more than the rest of his litter put together.

Kris Rudin
The Ring Cycle was Wagner's attempt at retelling The Lord of the Rings

Beethoven's 'Erotica' symphony was originally commissioned as a filmscore for an early adult film

Geoffrey Burleson
Haydn, the "father of the symphony", wrote 104 of them, one for each of his children.

Nick Norton
Mozart had great financial success, with a never ending stream of patrons.

Brian Lauritzen
The Ring Cycle is mostly about Wagner working out his commitment issues.

Nick Norton
Adorno, as it turns out, was a master of Iyengar yoga

Out West Arts
Delibes at first rejected BA's commission for an ad jingle. He later relented when offered free upgrades for life

Nick Norton
Mozart also abstained from alcohol and sex for his whole life

Kelsey Walsh
Mozart loved the trumpet, said it was the most softly beautiful thing he'd ever heard

Doug P
Beethoven moonlighted as a stand-up comedian under the stage name Ludwig Van Beetroot......

Doug P
The Last Night of the Proms is free on a first come first served basis.

Classical KUSC
A Little Night Music was a tone poem fantasy based on Sondheim's musical of the same name.

There's a bit in The Lark Ascending that Vaughan Williams based on the old folk tune "The Referee's a ******"

Doug P
The triangle player is the highest paid in an orchestra.......

Geoffrey Burleson
Bach wrote a heavily chromatic 20-voice fugue to symbolize his bewilderment in having had 20 children.

Classical KUSC
Dame Joan Sutherland played the bassoon......

Classical KUSC
Beethoven was born deaf, but slowly regained his hearing

Classical KUSC
A Countertenor is the Tenor who keeps a tally of the singers present.

Classical KUSC
The Flute is just a Lute with keys on it.

Classical KUSC
To this day, no one can correctly spell Aram Kacha--- Chata--- Khaki--- Khachaturian on the first attempt.

Daniel Bodeman
Handel was a huge Tebow fan. The original words for Hallelujah were TimTebowGo.

Classical KUSC
Stravinsky punched Queen Elizabeth I at the premiere of Le Sacre Du Printemps.

Brian Lauritzen
Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks is a work that ends with a holiday-themed practical joke.

Johann Sebastian #Bach had 6.02×10^23 children.

And my own contributions to the meme:

The open strings of a ukelele are the M, D, H, and F strings.

It's only by coincidence that Eric Carmen & Barry Manilow came up with melodies resembling Rachmaninoff's.

Gilbert O. Sullivan is a direct descendent of Arthur Sullivan, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame.

Arthur Bliss was not known for his intelligence. A common phrase in his day was " ignorance."
Marc Antoine Charpentier spent most of his life trying to write the bon motet.

A minor scale is one that has under thirteen notes.

Villa-Lobos kept his lycanthropy a secret -- even though his name translates as "House Wolves"

Roy Harris market-tested his compositions with focus groups. These were known as Harris Polls.

Englebert Humperdink always wanted to be a star in America. His great grandson would fulfill his dream.

Bugs Bunny had to play Stokowski in "Long-Haired Hare," as Leopold was still under contract to Disney.

Violists are the most respected and highly prized members of the orchestra.

Mozart faked his death to avoid creditors & assumed the identity of his "student" Franz Süssmayer in 1791

When "Das Rheingold" became a hit, Wagner was persuaded to write a sequel, then two more for the franchise.

The name of the crum horn is a derivation of its 16th century description - ye crummey horne.

Most medieval church music composers are anonymous, causing scholars to ask "Who was that Mass man?"

When two or more harps play in harmony, they create a harpsichord.

Beethoven wasn't really deaf. He faked it to avoid having to interact with stupid people (everyone but himself)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA - Read it and weep

There's not much I can add to the Stop Online Piracy Act protest that hasn't been said better elsewhere. I would, though, encourage you to read the bill for yourself. There are many interpretations of what it says, and some of those interpretations are filtered through what the writer thinks it says.

So here's a link to the published version of the bill, H.R. 3261.IH.

My objections aren't to the intent of the legislation -- protecting intellectual property -- but the tools given for that protection. I'm especially concerned that there's no provision for due process. If you're accused of having infringing content on your site, then down it comes and we'll sort out the details later.

Let's move that concept offline.  I don't like you, so I tell the police that you have stolen property in your home. The police have a number of options, such as checking on the credibility of the report, doing some discreet investigating, or doing some active investigating. In other words, acting under the assumption that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.

If SOPA guidelines were used, the police would just show up at your home and begin a search -- without a warrant. They would not tell you why they were there or what they were looking for, nor what prompted their visit in the first place. And if  they received a second or third complaint, then you would probably be arrested, although a trial may or may not be at the end of the process (arrest is enough).

It's a recipe for censorship. Under SOPA, it's very easy to register a complaint. The consequences to the accused are dire, and recourse is limited.

So if I don't like you as a person, I could get your blog taken down by simply turning you in for having infringing material. You've been careful? How about that comment I posted using Bart Simpson as an avatar? According to SOPA any infringing content taints the whole site. Don't think that's fair? Well, there's precedent. Employees of Viacom fed YouTube videos posing as individuals -- then Viacom sued YouTube for copyright infringement.

Or like Viacom, if I don't like your business, then I can make sure you have infringing content and get your site taken down. And if I can get the government to do it, then even better -- it might stay down a year or more, which would cripple (if not kill) your business.

Or, if I don't like your political party....

Don't think that's likely? Well, one of the sponsors of SOPA  Senator Lamar Smith, just happens to have some infringing material on his website. So his site could fall prey to the very penalties he's pushing for.

One more thing: the folks behind this,the  RIAA and MPAA have a model in mind when they helped draft this legislation.

As Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America said, "When the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn't do [business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block sites." (from Variety)

Yes, let's manage the Internet like China does for its citizens. Now there's a chilling thought.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Straco Layout - Part 14, Bandai Band-Aid

The Bandai diesel, coming down the line. It took a little work
to get it operational again.
 As long-time readers of this series know, I originally purchased the 1960 Bandai train set simply to get enough track to complete an oval. The locomotive never ran very well, and often sent out a shower of sparks as it lurched around the track.

Eventually, it stopped running at all. The engine has punched-out windows in its frame (who knows why), and when I peeked in,

I discovered the reason -- both solder joints for the wire pickups had given up the ghost.
This looks like trouble.
The view of the motor (and loose wires)
through a window in the locomotive body.
If I was a serious collector of Japanese toys, I probably would have just put the train on the shelf and left it alone. But I'm not. And the set didn't cost a lot to begin with.

The Bandai diesel has open side windows.
So I decided to repair the locomotive.

The trickiest part was detaching the body from the frame. It was secured by a series of bent metal tabs. Because the metal gets stressed at the bend, those tabs only have so many folds and unfolds in them before they simply snap off. And when that happens, there's no way to reattach them.

Note the tabs along the edge of the frame.
That's what holds the body on.
I was afraid that because this was an inexpensive (OK, cheap) toy, that the metal would be very thin and that the tabs would snap off.

Fortunately, the metal was fairly thick, and that didn't happen. I used a razor blade covered with tape to get under the tabs without scratching the metal.

Each tab was carefully bent back, but only as far as necessary. They remained at a slight angle, but by squeezing the body I could draw them out of their slots and remove the body.

A closeup of the problem. And note the years of dust stuck to
the greasy motor. Yuck!
The inside was something of a surprise. Yes, it was pretty dirty -- mostly because those open windows let in a lot of dust over the years that stuck to the greased and oiled motor. But there were also some lead weights secured to the frame of the engine.

I had thought that the motor itself was responsible for the weight of the locomotive, but that wasn't the case.

The first set of weights were in the front, to help the lead trucks hold to the track properly. That was important for two reasons: it minimized derailments, and it kept the wheels in constant contact with the track. The power in the track was transferred from the wheels to copper pickup shoes on the axles and from there through wires to the motor, so continual contact was important.
Without those lead weights, the locomotive wouldn't have
enough traction to move.

The second weight helped keep the rear trucks on the track. Because the engine itself (even with the lead discs) didn't have enough weight to provide traction, the rear wheels had ribbed rubber tires. The second weight help keep those tires pressed against the rails.Clever design!

The Bandi diesel, repairs completed,
ready to run.
Reconnecting the wires with solder was a simple job. I first made sure to clear all the old solder off of the contacts and clean the exposed wires. While I had full access to the motor, I also cleaned and oiled it. I also greased as many of the gears as I could get to.

When I replaced the body, the angled tabs held it in place. So rather than risk snapping them off by folding them back to their original position, I left them alone. And now I can easily get the body off again if I have to do more maintenance.

An unexpected bonus: cleaning the contacts and the gears not only made a difference in performance, but in safety as well. Sparks no longer fly out from under the frame. Guess I'll just have to refer to the locomotive as the Bandai diesel. Ol' Sparky doesn't seem appropriate anymore...

The newly restored Bandai diesel in action!

Read more about the whole project here.


Monday, January 16, 2012

"French Impressions" Impresses

French Impressions 
Josha Bell, violin; Jeremy Denk, piano
Sony Classics

Good chamber music is a conversation – and French Impressions is just that. A conversation between two old friends enjoying themselves. It’s no accident that both violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk get equal billing. In the three works presented both artists contribute equally to the performance.

The album beings with Camille Saint-Saens' Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano, completed in 1885. It's the  most formally constructed of the three works on the CD, but there’s nothing stuffy about it. Bell and Denk play the work with a light touch and real animation. They also don’t mind slightly lingering over the beautiful harmonies, calling the listener’s attention to the sumptuous sound.

Speaking of sumptuous, the Cesar Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major is even more so. Bell and Denk make a compelling case for this often-recorded work, and provide a fresh take on this familiar music.

Maurice Ravel incorporated some American blues into his 1922 Sonata for Violin and Piano. Many performers approach the movement from a classical tradition, and downplay the music’s inspiration. Not so Bell and Denk. They relish the jazz elements, and play them with such elan that the movement positively swings.

Although stylistically diverse, the three sonatas make a cohesive and interesting program thanks to Bell and Denk. It’s difficult to put into words, but they bring out the inherent Frenchness of these compositions.

I never really thought much about these sonatas before. I mean, they were OK, but not especially engaging personally. Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk have changed my mind, giving me a new appreciation for these compositions.That's impressive.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Statement of Faith

I wrote earlier about running out of "safe" topics to post. I've been kind of dancing around the subject, but I've decided to doing some posts about my faith journey.

Now I know this is a potentially hot topic, so let me be clear about what I'm trying to do.

1) I'm not trying to convert anyone.
I don't pretend to have all the answers -- or even some of them. Whether you have faith or not, my goal isn't to change your opinion one way or the other

2) It's all personal.
I'll share what I think are interesting observations about faith. It's not to show how much better (or worse) my denomination is than anyone else's. But most of what I think  about and react to happens within the context of the Presbyterian Church (USA) -- a mainstream Protestant connectional church. Your mileage may vary.

3) There might be more common ground than you think.
Talking to folks from different faith backgrounds has helped me realize that -- because we're all human beings -- group dynamics tend to be the same regardless of the organization (even if the terms are different). So when I share a thought or an observation, take it as simply that. "Here's what I see happening here. Have you had something similar happen with you?"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nation Wide Lines and A Hole in the Internet

Although, like many people, I rely on the Interent as a research tool.But it's not the be-all end-all. It's only as good as the information that's been made available online.

Case in point: I recently read an interesting article about a very specific subject: the history of toy train sets made for JC Penney by the American Flyer company between 1929 and 1931.(Don't worry -- this post isn't about toy trains.)

The article, Nation Wide Lines, was pretty interesting, and I wanted to know more. So I went online. And found.... well, not nothing. But a very small set of information endlessly repeated.

The house brand for these toys was Nation Wide Lines. Since all the search terms I was using (American Flyer, Nation Wide Lines, JC Penney, etc.) were common words with many different meanings, I was careful to use phrases and multiple-keyword searches to keep the results focused on my topic.

One of the top search results was the online version of the original article. The remainder were offerings from various auction sites. And worse yet, there were only about three or four different auction lots. All the hits came from sites that scraped data from eBay, Stout Auctions and another major auction house.

So what did I expect to find? Well, even for a subject as obscure as this there should be a fair amount of source material. For starters, there have been several scholarly works written about the American Flyer company which would have information about the Nation Wide line. Then there are histories of the JC Penny company. And there are original (and reproduction) JC Penney catalogs available. And there may be some other articles from other hobby magazines. But none of it is online.

So while I have a good idea of what these toy trains might be worth (thanks to the endless auction listings), I don't know anything else.

This is research that might have to take place offline.

Friday, January 13, 2012

CCC 013 - Aldolphus Hailstork

The Consonant Classical Challenge continues with American composer Adolphus Hailstork. Hailstork has been quietly building a solid reputation as a composer in a number of areas. His symphonic works have attracted notice, and he's an accomplished vocal and choral composer as well.

Hailstork has a lyrical style infused with African-American traditions. While still writing within the framework of the classical genre, his music has a unique energy to it. In some ways, it's similar to the effect Brazilian folk music had on the writing of Heitor Villa-Lobos.

The Sonata da Chiesa for String Orchesta is a good example of Hailstork's style. While readily accessible, the music is carefully constructed and always introduces some unexpected turns.

Hailstork's masterful orchestration gives his music a fresh sound. His use of percussion is innovative, and his overall tone colors chosen carefully to illuminate the blended harmonies of his compositions. "Celebration" is one of his more popular works, an occasional piece that's taken on a life of its own.

Often Hailstork is sought out because he's an African-American composer. But I don't think that's important. I think he should be better represented in orchestra concerts simply because he's a living composer -- and a darned good one at that.

Recommended Recordings

MUSIC & THE ARTS - VOL. 2 NO. 2 - THE VIRGINIA SYMPHONY: Adolphus Hailstork: Epitath; Piano Concerto; Celebration. Mary Howe: Stars. Gottschalk: Symphony No. 1 (Night at the Tropics)

Hailstork: Symphonies 2 & 3

As Falling Leaves: Music by Adolphus Hailstork

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ellery Queen and the Passage of Time

A colleague of mine is a professionally published mystery writer. When I told that I had always wanted to write John Dickson Carr-style locked room mysteries, she was quick to inform me that times had changed. While Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle books are still in print and still widely admired, tastes have changed. Modern readers are not interested in English tea cozies or locked room puzzles or even hard-boiled detectives. If I was serious about being a mystery writer, I needed to read current authors to understand what the public wants (and what publishers are likely to take a chance on).

Well, I can't say I want to be a mystery writer -- a mystery reader is good enough for now. I never thought Carr and the other authors I read were necessarily old-hat, but rather timeless (like Doyle). But after reading an Ellery Queen novel, I think I understand what my author friend was trying to tell me.

Ellery Queen (actually cousins  Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee) were wildly popular from their initial appearance in the 1930's. The books are admired for their "play fair" puzzles. That is, by the time you get to the reveal, you have had all the facts placed before you to make the right deduction yourself.

Great concept. But execution was something else. I suspect that when detective stories were new, there was a certain amount of shorthand involved. The reader knew  a large cast of characters were present just to give one many choices for the guilty party. Characters would do mysterious, suspicious and/or counter-productive things primarily to confuse the reader. And the puzzle was the thing.

In the hands of a talented writer (like John Dickson Carr), it's all woven into the narrative and you don't notice the seams. For Ellery Queen, though, it's different. The characters move about as directed with no natural or rational motivation. Worse yet, they don't behave consistently. All of which just calls attention to the rather pedestrian prose telling basically a word problem.

In the Chinese Orange Mystery , a man is killed in the waiting room of an office suite and then posed in a bizarre fashion. Two spears from the waiting room he was murdered in are thrust through the legs of his clothes, forming a brace. All of his clothes have been removed and put on backwards. Every chair, bookcase, and desk has been turned around. Every loose item that could has been placed upside down.

Now by the end of the mystery, there is an explanation for everything. The spears are necessary for a locked room illusion, while the backwards-turning of everything is there to hide a backwards-turned article of clothing that would have given everrything away.

(I'm being deliberately vague in case you actually want to read this mystery for yourself.)

Sure, all the clues are there -- but no rational person would ever put them together in the way the great detective did. Further, the turning everything backwards ruse was a last-minute improvisation that the killer came up with to hide a damning fact. Now really. The murderer has committed this crime in an office suite with people in other rooms across the hall, and even an attendant in the hall. Silent kill? No problem. But the whole of the killer's plan depends on only being absent from the others for a short while.

So what happens when you start moving furniture around? I don't know how it works in Ellery Queen land, but around here it's a noisy process. And a time-consuming one. And a very physical one. Yet the killer was neither out of breath (or had even worked up a sweat) when seen shortly after the murder, and no one heard a thing.

Back when the fashion was all about the puzzle, I'm sure this was a ripping yarn. But read in a different era, it just seems silly and contrived.

I guess fashions do change.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Peace be with you

If you are connect to me through any type of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+) then you know that my first post of the day is always the same:

Peace be with you.

It's a non-denominational variant of the Christian greeting used in the ceremony called the Passing of the Peace. The worship leader begins by saying "The Peace of the Lord be with you always," and the congregation responds "And also with you." The members of the congregation then turn to each other and repeat the greeting, receive the response, and then pass it on to others (usually with a handshake).

I started using the greeting during Lent as a way to help me focus my thoughts and set the tone for the day. If one starts out wishing peace to all, it makes it easier to bear the slings and arrows of the day with equanimity. I also resolved (for Lent) to use the phrase in response to any post or tweet I strongly disagreed with, instead of firing off something snarky or harsh.

It worked well. I found myself passing the peace quite often to my House Representative Eric Cantor, but so be it. I actually felt better doing so then if I had responded in kind (or rather, unkindly). And so after Easter I decided to just continue the practice.

And something interesting began to happen. I started to get folks responding with the phrase "and also with you."

Now that's the way to start the morning!  I can only hope that everyone continues to pass the peace along as they go about their day.

Yesterday I received two particularly pissy emails from two different people about two different problems. There was a time when I would have matched tone and intent and had at it. Instead, I let the emails sit, realized in one case that they were right, and in the other it didn't particularly matter.

I answered the one in a professional and calm manner, and ignored the other. And today, things are different (and better) with both people because of it.

So if you see me post "Peace be with you," then you'll know I've signed on for the first time that day. And while you don't have to respond, if you would like to pass that message on to others, then we all might make the day a little better.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Michael Torke's Tahiti: No Trouble Here

Michael Torke: Tahiti 
10/10 Ensemble of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
Clark Rundell, conductor
Ecstatic Records

This release pairs two Michael Torke works inspired by the South Seas – “Tahiti” and “Fiji.” Besides the geographical connection, it’s a logical program choice. Both works were written for a small chamber orchestra, and both have a similar feel.

“Fiji” is a 17-minute composition that pulls the listener into a Martin Denny-style Quiet Village world. This bouncy little samba just cooks right along. The sparse orchestration coupled with the steady pulse reminded me of Philip Glass, but Torke’s music is much more animated. And “Fiji” glitters with catchy and attractive melodies that enchant the ear.

The eight-part composition “Tahiti” is something of a musical travelogue. Each movement represents part of the Tahitian landscape. And while the overall mood of the work is more laid back than “Fiji,” each section has its own character.

Moorea (green cliffs) is languid and lyrical, Raiatea (town square) bustles with relaxed activity, while Huahine (under the moonlight) is downright sensual. Torke uses his stripped-down ensemble to great effect. While the music is orchestral in nature, the sound remains very transparent – as clear as the water in a Polynesian lagoon.

While superficially both “Fiji” and “Tahiti” seem to be light-hearted works (on par with Mozart serenades), they aren’t totally lightweight. Both compositions offer enough substance to merit repeated listening. Which means I’ll be returning to "Tahiti" again sometime soon.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Peeling back the layers of the creative onion

Four months ago I undertook the challenge of posting to this blog daily. And it's certainly been a challenge -- sometimes in ways I didn't expect.

One of the things that happened was that I had soon exhausted my supply of safe topics. It's not that I don't have strong opinions about certain things, it's just that there are folks who articulate them much better elsewhere online. Rather, I mean that there are some topics I didn't think I'd explore publicly that I'm starting to -- primarily because there are so many things I can say about a mid-60's Japanese tin toy-themed layout.

So life-changing events (or at least their consequences) are starting to creep into the posts. Which, I'm thinking, might not be a bad thing.

If I lead a more adventuresome life, or kept the blog narrowly focused, this might be easier. But not as much fun. Who knows? Maybe I'll try my hand at some flash fiction...

This experiment has forced me to peel back some layers -- the trick is keep them appealing.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Thoughts after the major event

Yesterday I shared my concerns about a major event at our church -- the presentation of a controversial proposal. A presentation I was partially responsible for making. I admitted yesterday that it was something of a test of faith. Well, as it turned out, the proposal passed (albeit not unanimously).

In the end, it was faith that carried the day. The meeting never became acrimonious, and although there were disagreements, we did indeed treat each other with respect. I like to think that we were all with the same Spirit -- at least for a little while.

Working within a church can really test one's faith. I think it's because you get to see how the sausage is made (as it were). Sometimes one can know too much. But then things happen like the meeting today. We all behaved in a Christian manner (which is as it should be). Yesterday I was thinking how odd it was that one's faith should be tried inside the church. Today I felt instead that it had been restored.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Thoughts before a major event

There's a problem with serving in a church -- it can really strain your faith. In our Presbyterian Church, I'm one of the elders (it's an honorary term that has nothing to do with age, thank you). In addition to several committees, I'm also on the Personnel Committee.

In my denomination, (Presbyterian Church USA), all decisions are made by the Session (the ruling body made up of deacons and elders) -- with an important exception. The congregation votes on changes in the pastor's terms of call (salary plus perks).

Well, in December we gave the congregation our recommended change to the terms, and were sent packing with a counter-motion to return with more information. We were proposing a major change, and the primary reaction was sort of sticker shock.

Churches are assemblies of human beings, and unfortunately subject to the same dynamics. So we have petty politics and factions and all the nonsense that brings, well, unChristian behavior.

Tomorrow morning we'll make our presentation again, and none of us our looking forward to it. We've laid out our presentation, rehearsed it, run over it in our minds for the past three weeks -- but we don't know what the outcome will be.

And that's really where the problem is. Although we'll facing some folks hostile to our proposal, we need to remember that we're all part of the same church family. And if our proposal is defeated? Then we need to not hold a grudge, but accept the outcome with equanimity

And -- oh yes -- whatever happens tomorrow will be as God wills it. Who would have thought that such a great test of faith would occur inside the church?

Friday, January 06, 2012

CCC 012 Robert Ward

We continue the Consonant Classical Challenge with American composer Robert Ward.

Robert Ward is one of the those composers who's managed to build an impressive career while somehow not attracting the attention of the concert-going public. Professionally, he's served on the faculties of Julliard, Columbia, and Duke. His opera, The Crucible has entered the repertoire and is performed worldwide. His music has been championed by Eugene Ormandy (among others), and he's well-regarded professionally.

Ward's music has very clean lines and with a distinctive American flavor. He sometimes favors the jazz inflections of Gerswhin, all served up in a mostly good-natured fashion. His Violin Concerto is a good example of Ward's style. Technically challenging, it still guides the listener along through the work.

Robert Ward also favors lyrical melodies. In the Concertino for Strings there are some beautifully simple melodies that have an American folk-like quality to them.

Ward is no stranger to large-scale forms. His large body of work includes six operas, three concertos and six symphonies. This excerpt from his fourth symphony represents the mature style of Robert Ward, and pulls together all of the sylistic elements found in his earlier works.

Robert Ward has always been concerned about clearly communicating with the audience -- as his music demonstates. For audiences who love Gershwin and Copland (and are perhaps tired of a steady diet of them), a Robert Ward composition should provide a welcome alternative.

Recommended Recordings

Robert Ward: Jubilation Overture; Symphony No. 4; Concerto for Saxophone; Sonic Structure

Robert Ward : Piano Concerto / Symphonies 2 & 3

Scarlet and Blue: Music by Robert Ward Scarlet and Blue: Music by Robert Ward

Thursday, January 05, 2012


One of my favorite Internet radio station is the Technicolor Web of Sound. Or rather, it was. Sometime in late December the site went down, and it hasn't returned.

Now this isn't necessarily a unique event. Sites have gone dark before.

But what happened next I found very interesting. Most people assume that the Internet has the sum total of human knowledge. It doesn't, of course. And even though the Technicolor Web of Sound (or TWOS) was a successful Internet radio station for years and had a major presence with listeners all around the world, when the person running the service went offline, he essentially disappeared.

I've checked the TWOS Facebook page, the forums, done various searches and all to no avail. Some people knew the person running the station (I've corresponded with him myself and even sent some recordings along). They report that emails and even phone calls have gone unanswered. As far as the TWOS online audience can tell, he's completely disappeared with no forwarding address.

Now I'm sure there are savvy hackers out there who might be able to dig deep enough into encrypted business files to track the person down. But for the average online listener, the trail ends in a percipitous drop off the edge of the (virtual) world.

Which is perhaps the way the person wanted it to be.(and that's part of the reason why I haven't given his name in this post)

So if the person is still around online somewhere, thanks for years of great programming. TWOS was without a doubt one of my all-time favorite Internet radio stations, and I will miss it.

And it's good to know that not everything (or everyone) can be found online.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The New Metropolis

I had an opportunity to watch the restored version of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" over the weekend. I've always loved the 1927 silent film for its visual beauty, but not the story.

This 2-and-a-half-hour film was not treated kindly by its distributors, and shortly after its premier was chopped down to a more "manageable" run time of under two hours.

I've enjoyed the 2001 Kino version, which had pulled together and restored as much of the surviving footage as they could find. There was still a substantial amount of the film that remained missing until a copy was discovered in Brazil in 2008. The additional 25 minutes don't completely restore "Metropolis," but it comes close -- and redefines many of the relationships between the characters in the process.

One of the most menacing figures in the film, Fritz Rasp as the Thin Man, had his role reduced to almost nothing in the early edits. Restoring his scenes makes a world of difference. Rasp had a knack for portraying dangerously powerful men on screen (check out his role as Colonel Jellusic in "Spies").

In "Metropolis" he plays the eyes and ears of Joh Fredersen, the CEO of Metropolis. He's assigned the task of trailing Jon's impulsive son Freder, a job he does with quiet efficiency.

The still at left is from the restored footage. Look at the cold menace in Rasp's face. But note something else. That flat-brimmed hat reminded me of Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker. Except the Thin Man is far scarier.

The restored footage clarifies the conflict between the mad scientist Rotwang and Joh Fredersen, and also offers a better reason for the creation of the robot. In the edited version, Fredersen wanted something to replace the workers with, a motive that doesn't make much sense with his later actions. In the original version. Rotwang creates the robot as a reincarnation of Hel, the woman he lost to Fredersen (which also explains their conflict).

Also changing roles is Josaphat, an administrator fired by Joh Fredersen. In the edited version, it appears that he drops to the lower working class, showing up later in overall and togs. In the original version, he instead is hired by Freder to be his eyes and ears.

The worker's clothes he dons are only a disguise. Josaphat remains (thanks to Freder's employ) part of the very small middle class. The restored version is the only place we see a hint of this middle class.

If you've ever seen any version of "Metropolis," and didn't think much of it, give this restored version a view. It's different enough that it make change your mind. And if you've seen "Metropolis" and enjoyed it despite its flaws, The Complete Metropolis should justify your faith in the potential of this sprawling opus.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Straco Layout - Part 13, White Line Fever

I thought it was time to do a little more work on the Straco Express layout, so I decided to add a little detail to the road.

I had recently purchased a Sharpie Poster Paint marker for another purpose, and thought it might be an easy way to add traffic lines.

It was.

On-road painting finished...
One advantage I had in laying out the lines was the pegboard itself. Since I had made the roadway  five holes in width, I conveniently had a line of holes in the middle of the road to serve as a guide.

I experimented a little with freehand drawing, but that didn't work very well. I then tried using a ruler, but that was awkward.

The best solution turned out to be painter's tape. I simply applied two strips on either side of the line I wanted to draw, and then just colored in the opening with the Sharpie.

... and now it's time to put back all the scenery.
When I pulled the tape away, I had nice, clean (and straight) lines. After adding the lines in the middle of the road, I decided to add white lines to the sides of the road as well.

The curves I did draw freehand, but only after adding the straight lines with the tape method. Connecting them up with the curves proved to be an easy process.

Now traffic flows freely (and safely) on the Straco layout. And good thing, too. I recently completed a purchase of some additional vehicles...

Read about the entire Straco Express project here.
Another busy day on the Straco layout. Drive safely!