Saturday, December 31, 2016

Spam Roundup December, 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. 

And we'll keep torturing the English language until it talks

 - I think every one is getting more from this web page, and your views are nice designed for new viewers. [I prefer to think of my views as intelligent designed.]

 - Quality articles or reviews is the key to invite the vistors to pay a quick visit the website. [As opposed to, say, this blog?]

 - What I don't realize is actually how you are not actually a lot more well-preferred than you may be right now. [Actually?]

 - Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. [It's like talking to my broker -- and I don't understand him either.]

See that lumber truck in the foreground? That's what
all the excitement's about.
The post that keeps on giving

It was just a short post in an obscure series about vintage Japanese tin toys. It didn't even had that much useful information. But The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along continues to be a popular place to leave fake comments. 

 - I do believe all the ideas you've offered to your post. They're really convincing and will certainly work. [You are sooooo gullible.]

- Right here is the perfect web site for anybody who wants to understand this topic. You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really will need to ...HaHa). [HaHa.]

 - Such clever work and reporting! [Yes, my investigative reporting about 1950s Made in Japan friction toys holds nothing back!]

 - So nice to discover someone with genuine thoughts on this subject. [Yes, there are so many poseurs writing about vintage Japanese penny toys.]

A Fastidious Finish

Fastidious Spam continues to draw comments from the very subject of the post -- spambots. 

 - Incredible quest there. What happened next? [Well, your fake comment got featured in a Spam Roundup post.  The End.] 

That's a wrap for 2016. We'll actually be continuing this series next year with actual spam comments that actually don't make actual sense. I promise it will be nice designed. Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Value of Twitter (cont.)

When I first wrote about the value of Twitter in 2009, most people thought of it simply as a platform for narcissists to tweet their every meal. After the 2016 campaign, many now view it as a cesspool of hatemongering and disinformation.

Well, both views are true to a certain extent. There are still some who tweet about everything (although most have migrated to Instagram), and there are plenty of folks on their worst behavior as they tweet.

But like any other social media platform -- or indeed, any real world social interaction -- it's really what you make of it. Imagine a reception in a large ballroom. You don't have to stand next to the ugly drunk and put up with their abuse. You can move to the opposite corner and discuss more pleasant topics. Perhaps you can connect with others who support your favorite sports team, or are from your old hometown, or share your hobbies.

One of the ways I use Twitter is to converse with fellow classical music enthusiasts. And, as a result, I've learned a thing or two. For example -- in December 2016 a few of us started using #BeethovenaDay hashtag. The rules were simple: for the month of December, post a link to a performance of a Beethoven piece.

In the process, I've been exposed to a number of great performances I wouldn't have otherwise discovered -- and so have others. To my post sharing a vintage recording of Beethoven's Serenade Op. 8, a colleague replied "Hindemith on viola? Oh my! Must hear" (the 1934 recording featured composer Paul Hindemith when he was still primarily a performer). He got to hear something new for him (and his tweets often expose me to exciting performances I hadn't heard before).

Here's another example.

The #BeethovenaDay discussion included this conversation:

Q: For #BeethovenADay, how about nominations for the greatest Beethoven-inspired Symphony?

Reply 1: Off the top of my head Brahms 1, Sibelius 1, Dvorak 9, Bruckner 9, Mahler 2, Harris 1. Will think of others.

Reply 2: Villa-Lobos's inspiration for Choros no.10 was Beethoven's 9th.

Reply 3: The slow movement of Ives' Concord Sonata uses motifs from Beethoven's 5th.

I had no idea that so many works were directly inspired by Beethoven. And secondly, I now have another list of works to explore, listening for those connections.

Of course, while we were having these #BeethovenaDay conversations, there were plenty of horrible, nasty, racist, misogynistic tweeting going on. But I saw very little of it. My Twitter feed follows a different crowd -- and yours can, too.

Choose what you want to share, choose your tone of voice, choose who to interact with. And don't be shy about blocking. Tweets can be used to transmit humanity's basest emotions or share our highest aspirations. I strive to contribute to the latter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Weinberg's Symphony Trilogy "On the Threshold of War" Completed

This release includes the world premiere recording of Mieczyslaw Weinberg's 1950 Suite for Orchestra. And what a delight. The Suite includes a Ravel-like Romance, a Rossini/Tchaikovsky hybrid Humoresque, a Prokofiev-inspired Polka, and concludes with a raucous circus band Galop.

While enjoyable for its own light-hearted merits, the Suite also provides a welcome emotional balance to the other work on this release, Weinberg's Symphony No. 17.

Symphony No. 17, "Memory," completes Weinberg's massive symphonic trilogy, On the Threshold of War. The three symphonies process the emotional trauma the Russian people suffered during the  Second World War. The title, "Memory," references a poem of Anna Akhmatova. " the treasure-house of the people's memory, there will always remain the incinerated years of war."

The symphony begins somberly, with ambivalent tonality. Over its 45-minute span, the symphony relentlessly builds to its climax. Explosive outbursts disrupt but never derail the momentum of the music. And then, after it reaches its conclusion, the symphony doesn't provide a coda lower the energy and stop the motion. Rather, it just abruptly stops, letting the sound dissipate into the air -- much like memories of unresolved issues.

To my ears, the work resembles Shostakovich's "Leningrad" Symphony in its depiction of conflict, but in a more polished and tightly organized fashion. Yet, as with the "Leningrad," the raw emotional content is never far from the surface. Weinberg experienced the horrors of the Great Patriotic War firsthand. Though he composed the trilogy in the 1980s, the pain seems little dimmed four decades later.

Vladimir Lande and the Siberian State Orchestra perform this powerful work with commitment and energy. And with sensitivity, giving Weinberg's introspective passages the delicate poignancy they need. Lande and the SSO have also recorded the other parts of the trilogy: Symphony No. 18, "War -- there is no word more cruel" (Naxos 8.57190), and Symphony No. 19, "Bright May" (Naxos 8.572752).

Each work is an effective and complete musical statement. But now that all three parts have been released, I feel compelled to sit down and listen to this trilogy from beginning to end. Only then, I think, can I fully appreciate what Weinberg is trying to communicate.

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Symphony No. 17, Op. 137 "Memory"; Suite for Orchestra (world premiere recording)
Siberian State Symphony Orchestra; Vladimir Lande, conductor
Naxos 8.573565

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dick Tracy's Dream

Mike Curtis and Joe Staton continue to expand the world of Dick Tracy world into other comic strip universes. They've established that Little Orphan Annie exists in Tracy's world, as does Gasoline Alley, Terry and the Pirates, Popeye, Fast Track, and more.

They've even created an alternative version of Fearless Fosdick for Tracy's world in the form of Straightedge Trueworthy (created byVera Alldid). Now Al Capp's original character parody joins the Tracy universe in an innovative way, beginning with this sequence from June 28. 2016.

It's important to remember that Fearless Fosdick was always a fictional character. In Al Capp's strip L'il Abner, Fearless Fosdick was a comic strip that L'il Abner read. The comic within a comic was a send-up of Dick Tracy, carrying the tropes of Chester Gould's strip to the extreme.

And in the sequence started above, Fosdick remains a fictional character. In this case a dream creation of Dick Tracy. So where does that leave L'il Abner and the denizens of Dogpatch in the Tracyverse? I'm not sure -- but I'm going to keep reading to find out.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Diabelli Project 139 - Piece for Solo Oboe

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 is the third flash composition sketch I've done for solo oboe. Looking back at the other two, I can see some similarities, but there are some major differences (see Nos. 74 and 65. Sometimes I wonder if sketches made for the same forces are bits of a larger work. In this case, I don't think so. It seems that this sketch is more of a development of the earlier ones. And that's one of the points of this exercise -- to get more comfortable creating.

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, December 23, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 033 Acrobat

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.

033 Acrobat

The acrobat was an easy toy to build. All of the toys that have a human figure (like the 030 Man, or 031 Rope Walker) have the same basic construction. In this case, the only puzzle was figuring out what to use for weights. The wooden discs seemed right, although I'm not sure if there should be a fiberboard washer between each set as a spacer (I decided against it). 

To me, the figure looked more like a weight lifter than an acrobat. I guess he's holding some type of balancing beam -- a weight lifter would throw his back out holding a barbell like that!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Violin for All Seasons

It's an interesting program, coupling Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" with Roxanna Panufnik's modern take on the same subject. And it's one that works very well. The connective thread is the talent of violinist Tasmin Little.

Little's performance of the "Four Seasons" with the BBC Symphony Orchestra is a spirited one. Her solo work is beautifully crafted as always. In the over-crowded field of "Four Season" recordings, this one definitely rises to the top. As a conductor, Little keeps things moving along without sounding rushed.

Of greater interest (for me) was Roxanna Panufnik's "Four World Seasons." Little and Panufnik are long-time friends as well as collaborators.

Each movement of Panufnik's work not only represents a different season but a different part of the world. The first movement, "Autumn in Albania," is perhaps the most personal. As she notes, her father -- Polish composer Andrej Panufnik -- "was born, loved, and died in autumn." The music is infused with Slavic folk idioms, while at the same time sounding fresh and contemporary.

The other three movements were written for Tasmin Little and, as expected, showcase her strengths as a performer. There's plenty of opportunity for technical brilliance, which Little accomplishes with ease. Of greater importance is the melodic content, which Little delivers with sensitivity and beauty.

If you like Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, you should enjoy "Four World Seasons." Panufnik skillfully incorporates native musical languages into the work to really give the listener a strong sense of place.

"Tibetan Winter" features a Tibetian singing bowl, for example. "Indian Summer" uses the violin performance practices of Northern India. "Spring in Japan" has the strings mimic the delicacy of the koto. It's a beautifully crafted work and one that reveals more details with each listening -- especially through an SACD player.

By all means, come for the Vivaldi. But if you're like me, you'll stay for the Panufnik.

A Violin for All Seasons 
Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons 
Roxanna Panufnik: The World Seasons 
Tasmin Little, violin soloist, conductor 
BBC Symphony Orchestra 
Chandos CHSA 5175 SACD

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Modern Sounds of Dario Castello

What was the big hit of the publishing world of 1623? It wasn't Shakespeare's First Folio (which came out that year), but rather the omnibus of Dario Castello's sonate concertate.

Over the next 40 years, they would remain continually in print, becoming a cornerstone of every major music library. Thanks to this new recording, I think I understand why.

Almost nothing is known of Dario Castello, save his music. His 30 sonate concertate are models of the Venetian Styl Moderno. Instrumental recitatives are paired with dramatically contrasting polyphonic sections.

The works are short, mercurial, and -- apparently -- technically challenging. As Castello wrote, "I declare that having observed the modern style, I could not have made them any easier.”

The Academy of Ancient Music, directed by Richard Egar is more that up to the challenge. Renaissance wind instruments like the early trombone, cornetto, and dulcian (sort of a bassoon) are notoriously hard to play, yet all sound with a purity of tone and warm expression that makes every phrase a gem. The ensemble is well-recorded, with a warm ambiance of a small chamber, but play cleanly so every note is discernable.

If you wish Monteverdi had written more instrumental music, this is the album for you. That's not to say that Castello imitated Monteverdi, but they were both writing according to the "modern style." Like Monteverdi's madrigals, Castello's 30 sonate concertate are rich in variety and inventiveness.

Dario Castello: Sonate concertate in Stil Moderno, Libro Primo
The Academy of Ancient Music; Richard Egar, director, harpsichord & organ
AAM Records

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Baldo Breaks Through

Usually when I write about a comic strip playing with the conventions of the medium, I'm talking about Lio or Barney & Clyde. But in this case, it's Baldo, by Hector D. Cantu and Carlos Castellanos.

The panel borders are part of the lexicon of the comic strip. So much so, that the reader just doesn't see them. Until they become part of the story, as they did in this June 19, 2016 Sunday sequence.

Baldo's father talk about using borders to protect his son is one most any parent in the real world would use. But with Baldo holding parts of the panel borders in his hand, the words have a double meaning (and set up the punch line).

Strange characters aren't just dangers out in the world -- they're the characters in the strips surrounding Baldo on the comics page.

A nice example of meta-humor.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Diabelli Project 138 - 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.

This week I decided to do something simple and tonal -- a piano piece. Well, that intent lasted almost through the first measure. The left hand's open intervals sort of expands, and contract as the piece moves along, partially influencing the key centers the right-hand melody wanders through. If I had had more time, I think I would have added more articulation and dynamic markings to this. But the rules are clear -- at the ten-minute mark, it's time to put down your pencil and turn in your work.

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, December 16, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 032 - Dog

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.

032. Dog

The dog was the first toy I found impossible to build as shown. The issue was the front legs. There are only two lengths of dowels. The long ones were way too long, and the short ones didn't have enough length to hold the two legs to the body. One leg, yes; but not two.

In order to photograph an assembled version of the toy, I had to cheat. As you can see in the photo at left, I had to use the long dowel rod in order to get the pieces to hold together. 

And you'll notice that the tail is also significantly taller than it appears in the illustration. That's because I had the same issue. A short dowel rod would hold the hind legs to the body, but leave no tail to speak of. Only the longer dowel would work. 

So I did what I had to, and very carefully angled the camera so that the dog's body hid most of the  excess dowel sticking out the side. 

While I was able to get the shot, I'm ambivalent about Line Mar counting this as one of the 100 toys. Sure there are 100 drawings, but in this case that drawing didn't translate well into reality.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Noël Baroque played with joie de vivre

The impetus behind this release was simple: Sofi Jeannin wanted her Maîtrise choir to sing Christmas music. Enter François Lazarevitch, director of the early music ensemble Musiciens de Saint-Julien.

He had been collecting 16th and 17th-century French carols and was looking for a fresh way to present them. The resulting album is a wonderful blending of tradition and invention -- and some great music to enjoy for the holidays.

Most of the French baroque carols, such as those by Michel Corrette and Louis-Claude Daquin, were composed for organ. Lazarevitch arranged the works for his ensemble and gave the music voice. Jeannin's Musiciens de Saint-Julien was augmented by children's voices of La Maîtrise de Radio France.

This is not a dry, learned reading of early music. Rather, these selections are delivered with a joie de vivre that's infectious. If Patapan makes you happy, this music will have you smiling. If it doesn't, these performances should win you over. The musicians perform with a high degree of skill, yet seem to retain the earthy enthusiasm of the carols' peasant origins. And that's what makes this album so much fun.

I'm adding Noël Baroque to my short list of holiday music.

Noël Baroque
Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien; Sofie Jeannin, director 
La Maîtrise de Radio France
Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien; François Lazarevitch, director
Alpha 266

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A welcome reissue of Heinrich Schütz's Weihnachtshistorie

Christophorus brings back this 2003 recording of Heinrich Schütz's Weihnachtshistorie, first released on the French label K617. It's an excellent performance.

Both the Choeur de Chambre de Namur and La Fenice have a warm ensemble sound. Soprano Claire Lefilliâtre and tenor Hans-Jörg Mammel deliver well-balanced performances, singing in clear, unaffected fashion.

Jean Tubéry uses his performers effectively, bringing out the inherent drama in Schütz's oratorio while keeping within the bounds of 17th Century performance practices. The Magnificant anima mea seems to bounce with joy. Herod's aria sounds suitably regal. And Der Engel zu Joseph, where Joseph is told to flee with his family to Egypt, has a sense of urgency about its quick 16th note figures.

Those are but three examples. At its premier in the 1640s, Schütz's oratorio was considered a masterwork. And this performance demonstrates why that still holds true.

The recording is filled out with other Schütz choral works appropriate for the season. If you missed it the first time around, be sure to grab a copy now.

Heinrich Schütz: Weihnachtshistorie SW 435
Claire Lefilliâtre, soprano; Hans-Jörg Mammel, tenor; Choeur de Chambre de Namur; La Fenice; Jean Tubéry, conductor
Christophorus CHR 77404

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lio and the stale Peanuts

Cameos of one comic strip character in another's strip can happen for many reasons -- cross-promotion, joint story lines, special events, and mordant commentary.

The latter, I think, is the reason behind Charlie Brown's cameo in the June 20, 2016 installment of Lio. Mark Tatulli's riffed on Peanuts before, always (as I interpret it) to criticize this strip that is continually rerun in newspapers. It's past time to retire Peanuts and give that real estate to a contemporary comic strip. There are plenty of worthy strips that need to be seen.

In this case, Tatulli upends another now overly-familiar Peanuts trope -- the kite eating tree.

It's simple, and it makes the point. On the left side of the panel is the old -- Charlie Brown and the sign. On the right, the new -- Lio and the tree-eating kite. Placement is not accidental. We read from left to right, so moving from Charlie Brown to Lio is seen as a progression.

My takeaway from this panel is this: the kite-eating tree is gone. Can we please move on, now?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Diabelli Project 137 - Percussion Quartet

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 quartet grew out of the rhythmic pattern of alternating 4/4-3/4 and 4/4-5/8 measures. From there, I started the snare part and then decided to add some metallic instruments for contrast. Then came the toms for counterpoint for the snare, and finally the tambourine, with its cross between wood and metal sound. From there, who knows?

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, December 09, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 031 - Rope Walker

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.

031 Rope Walker

The body of the Rope Walker was very similar to the 030 Man. There is one difference, though -- the Man uses the longest flat pieces for the legs, and the shorter ones for the arms. In this figure, the pieces are reversed. The longest pieces are used to provide space for the wheel, with the shorter ones used for the legs.

As with all the figures, the biggest problem was assembling the neck, to ensure the head stayed level. If you look closely at the photo below, you'll see I didn't quite succeed. The head leans forward a little. But that's alright. It looks like the Rope Walker is stealing a glance downward. 

I also had to do a little guesswork for the pulley. The illustration doesn't make it clear if there was supposed to be something between the two wooden discs or not. I opted to put a fiberboard collar between the two as a spacer. It created a groove for the wire to slip into, which made for a more stable assembly.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Luther's Christmas Carols -- Serene sounds of the season

To me, renaissance Christmas carols have a certain serenity about them. Perhaps it's the softness of the instruments, such as the lute, recorder, and virginal. All I know is that in a season where emotions are often whipped up to a fever pitch, they help me stay centered much better than "Frosty" or even "Joy to the World."

Martin Luther understood the importance of music in worship, and his Christmas hymns are still sung today.

This collection takes five hymns Luther wrote for Weihnachten (Christmas) and presents them with various settings. Luther's melodies are simple and durable but at the same time malleable enough for all kinds of treatments.

Included are a number of dance arrangements by Michael Praetorius, polyphonic settings for organ by Martin Agricola and others, even arrangements for lute and voice.

All the arrangements are short (only a few pass the 2-minute mark), and the album groups them together by the Luther hymn they set. The seemingly endless permutations of these melodies keep the program interesting. Treatments and instrumental/vocal combinations change almost every track. While I was familiar with some of these works (especially Praetorius), there were some pleasant surprises along the way from the more obscure composers.

Simone Eckert and the Hamburger Ratsmusik play in a simple, straightforward style well-suited to the material. Sopranos Veronika Winter and Ina Sledlaczek sing with pure, unwavering tones. Tenor Jan Kobow's light delivery nicely balances the ensemble sound. When these voices blend, it's positively angelic.

This is a beautiful collection of Luther's music, presented through the arrangements of six generations of composers. I'll be enjoying this one repeatedly this holiday season.

Euch ist ein Kindlein heut geborn
Luthers Weihnachtslieder (Luther’s Christmas Carols)
Veronika Winter, soprano; Ina Siedlaczek, soprano; Jan Kobow, tenor
Hamburger Ratsmusik; Simone Eckert, director
Carus 83.390

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

James Whitbourn - Carolae refreshes old favorites

I usually don't like choral works that try to incorporate traditional Christmas carols. My issue is that the original tune usually sounds like it's been shoehorned into a setting without becoming a part of it.

Not so with James Whitbourn's "Missa Carolae." Yes, the recognizable tunes are there -- "Patapan," "God rest ye merry gentlemen," "In Dulci Jubilo" and so on -- and they're recognizable when they appear. But these carols are part of a larger musical tapestry.

Whitbourn takes his source material and blends it seamlessly together, letting his original contributions flow from the structures and motifs of the carols themselves. To my ears, it makes these overly-familiar carols sound fresh again.

That freshness extends to Whitbourn's original choral works, some of which are also included on this release. These are richly textured, robust works that should appeal to both the casual listener (as most parishioners are) or the classical devotee who wants music of substance and depth.

The Westminster Williamson Voices is a large choir, so there's a certain softness to their sound. But the ensemble has a warm, creamy blend that's well-suited to the music. And their articulation is virtually flawless.

I don't need yet another by-the-numbers setting of Christmas standards. When I auditioned "Carolae, Music for Christmas," I realized this was a disc I needed.

James Whitbourn: Carolae
Music for Christmas
Westminster Williamson Voices; James Jordan, director
Eric Rieger, tenor; Daryl Robinson, organ
Naxos 8.573715

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Death in Comics: Gil Thorp (part 2)

In June, 2016 readers of Gil Thorp saw high school student Boo Radley die in a tragic car accident (see Part 1). What I think was particualarly well done is how the creative team of Neil Rubin and Rod Whigham followed up that event.

They concentrated on the aftermath, showing the impact of Radley's death on her friends and family, and also the family of Barry Brader, whose father caused the wreck. Like real life, it's complicated and messy. Barry and Radley's boyfriend True STandish are on the Milford baseball team. And that affects the team itself. Radley was on the girl's baseball team. Gil Thorp coaches the boy's team, his wife the girl's. And -- considering the constraints of a daily narrative strip -- I think Rubin and Whigham realistically explored the impact such an event would have.

Sure, we call the daily comics the funnies, but they're not always so. Sometimes they aspire to be more -- and in the case of Boo Radley's death -- succeed.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Diabelli Project 136 - 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.

The rules for Diabelli Project flash compositions are simple: within the allotted ten-minute span spontaneously compose, and stop when time runs out. Before I make a fair copy of the sketch for posting to the blog, I'll play through what I wrote to make sure it's intelligible. I try to keep corrections to a minimum and edits even more so. The goal is to document what happened in that ten minutes without refining it afterward (that's a different project).

In this case, I did make one editorial decision after the fact. I did conceive of this as a string orchestra piece, with the viola section getting the solo. As I was making the fair copy, I had second thoughts. The melody is supposed to be freely expressive, something that might be problematic for a string section.

No, that's not an oblique viola joke -- I'd feel the same if the melody had been given to the first violin. So I made a slight edit and made the viola melody a solo. It may be bending the "rules," but it just seems right.

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, December 02, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 030 - Man

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.
 Attaching the head was
a problem once again.

030 Man

The man figure was relatively easy to build. This figure appears several times in this instruction sheet. It's used for the 026 Walker, 031 Rope Walker, and 033 Acrobat. 

And all have the same basic challenge -- getting the head to attach securely enough to the body so it doesn't fall off. That intersection of the two dowels doesn't leave a lot of room to work in.

But beyond that, the build was trouble-free. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the fiberboard collars held the arms securely enough to keep them parallel to the ground. I could take all the time I needed to set up the photo. 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Nowell We Sing - Imaginative program, beautiful performances

Robert Quinney and the Choir of New College Oxford build on the success of their release, "John Blow: Symphony Anthems." While this is indeed a collection of seasonal music, the selections are more varied in style and show just how capable this choir and director are.

Traditional favorites such as Praetorius' "In dulci jubilo" and Bennet's "In the bleak midwinter" are included, as well as David Willcocks arrangements of "Of the Father's heart begotten" and "O come all ye faithful."

But rather than making up the entire program, these familiar selections are interspersed as leavening for a more adventuresome fare.

I especially liked the inclusion of more contemporary works. Charles Ives' "A Christmas Carol" was a welcome addition, and the pieces by Francis Pott, Peter Warlock, and Matthew Martin added some freshness and spice to the program.

Love the English choral tradition but are tired of the same old traditional selections? Me, too. That's why I recommend this disc. It's thoughtfully programmed and beautifully performed.

Nowell Sing We!
Advent and Christmas at New College
Choir of New College Oxford; Robert Quinney, director
Novum NCR 1390