Friday, September 29, 2017

Spam Roundup, September 2017

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.

I pardon your beg?

It seldom pays to overtax your translation program. 

- Excellent issues altogether. You simply received a new reader. What would you suggest in regards to your put up that you simply made some days in the past? Any positive? [I was with you up through the middle of the third sentence. Now I'm not positive.]

 - The contents present at the web page are truly awesome for people experience, well, keep up the nice work fellows. [We'll keep that people experience going for you.]

 - Just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it's truly informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. [Good idea -- you can never trust Brussels.]

"Lumbering along" lumbers going

The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along continues to attract the spambots. As you read the comments below, keep in mind that it was all supposedly prompted by the 3"-long tin friction toy shown at right. That, plus about a 100 words used to describe it.

 - I enjoy the art nouveau lines than me, plus the classic simplicity. [Yes, cheap Japanese toys of the 1960s tended to favor art nouveau design...]

 - You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. [What there is to know about this toy wouldn't even fill a frontispiece.]

 - You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. [You've got to be kidding.]

Subliminal marketing returns... 

 - One thing I did find was that the place seemed telefonsex like a tiny garden of Eden.

...and so does "fastidiousness"

 - Hi there Dear. are you really visiting this website regularly, if so after that you will definitely get fastidious experience. My web site... hemorrhoids on Fastidiuous Spam

After that, there's nothing left to say, except: that's all for this month!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Prime Time Jazz - a WTJU special (Part 2)

I hosted a special 3-hour program as part of the 2017 Jazz Marathon/Station Fund Drive for WTJU. Jazz on TV followed up the follow-up to my program last year, Jazz on Film.

The focus was on legit jazz created (or sometimes repurposed) for TV shows. Part 1 featured music from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

While that was the heyday, there were still some jazz scores in the following decades on network TV.

Mike Post

Not everything Post wrote was jazz, but there were a few scores that qualified. He created the signature sound for Law & Order (1990-2010). Like 77 Sunset Strip, the show spawned its own spinoffs: Law & Order Special Victim’s Unit (1999 - ), Law & Order Criminal Intent (2001-2011) Law & Order, Trial by Jury (2005-2006), Law & Order LA (2010-2011). While the themes varied, all began with that "CHUNG-CHUNG" sound. Mike Post also wrote the theme to "LA Law" (1986-1994). While some may consider the sax solo smooth jazz, jazz it remains -- especially in the long version of the theme.

LA Law was another long-running program to feature a Mike Post theme. From 1986-1994 viewers heard David Sanborn's opening sax riff. My listeners got to hear the entire solo.

Late Nights

In the early days, jazz bands were the standard for late night talk shows. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962-1992) featured Doc Severinsen and his orchestra. The band included monster players such as Tommy Newsome (sax), Conte Candoli (trumpet), and Ed Shaughnessy (drums).  Here's Johnny made a fortune for its composers -- Johnny Carson and Paul Anka.

Saturday Night Live (1975-) had an impressive number of important jazz musicians in their ranks. SNL band alumni include Paul Shaffer (keyboards), G.E. Smith (guitar), David Sanborn (sax) Michael Brecker (sax). Paul Shaffer left SNL to lead the "The World's Most Dangerous Band" for Late Night with David Letterman. (1982-1993)

Angela and Barney Miller

Keyboardist Bob James is credited with one of the most iconic themes of the early 1980s. The theme to Taxi (1978-1982) is a Bob James chart called Angela. Equally well-known was the bass solo of session musician Chuck Berghofer. It begins the theme to Barney Miller (1975-1982).

Quincy Jones

The prolific Quincy Jones wrote many movie and TV themes. Time constraints limited me to just two. Ironside holds the distinction of being the first TV theme to use a synthesizer. And Streetbeater is better known as the theme to Sanford and Son (1972-1977).

And more

I also included classics such as the theme to Route 66, Night Court, and even Seinfeld. Listeners got to hear the swinging Count Basie score to M Squad (arranged by Johnny Williams), and its parody, t Ira Newsom's Police Squad! theme.

I also aired Lalo Schifrin playing the theme to Mannix, though I didn't have time to include anything from Mission Impossible.

But I did save time to end with my favorite jazz TV score -- the theme to Jonny Quest. Hoyt Curtain wrote many swinging themes for Hanna Barbara - the Flinstones, the Jetsons, Top Cat, Wally Gator, and so on. But Jonny Quest may be the best.

Session trombone players were complaining that their parts weren't very challenging. So Curtain wrote a theme that's virtually impossible to play on the instrument and laughed as they sweated through take after take. If you listen very carefully, you'll hear them struggle through the opening bars.

It was a fun program, and we raised some money for WTJU. I had fun, and we raised some funds. That's what I call a successful radio program.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Prime Time Jazz - a WTJU special (Part 1)

I hosted a special 3-hour program as part of the 2017 Jazz Marathon/Station Fund Drive for WTJU. Jazz on TV followed up the follow-up to my program last year, Jazz on Film.

The focus was on legit jazz created (or sometimes repurposed) for TV shows. Although the bulk of jazz TV soundtracks came from the late 1950s and early 1960s, the genre continued to have outstanding contributions through the present day.

Didn't hear the program? Here's what you missed:

77 Sunset Strip - Birth of a franchise

Movie composer Max Steiner and Jack Halloran wrote the score for this LA-based detective show. During its six-year run (1958-1964), the program spawned three spin-offs. Each one was set in a relatively exotic locale, with its own musical identity.

77 Sunset Strip (starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Roger Smith) featured a jive-talking valet parking attendant, "Kookie Kookson" (Edd Byrnes). The soundtrack was a mix of hep jazz with a hint of early rock n' roll. It was a winning combo - the soundtrack album made the top 100 for 1959.

Hawaiian Eye premiered a year later, with Tracy Steele, Robert Conrad, and Connie Stevens as a singer in a local club. Stevens sang somewhat traditional pop numbers, but the instrumental score was Martin Denny-style exotica.

Bourbon Street Beat only lasted one season (1959-1960). The soundtrack, while jazzy, didn't quite capture the essence of the Big Easy. But there was some street cred. In addition to Richard Long and Andrew Duggan, the show featured a jazz pianist. This recurring role was played by Eddie Cole, Nat King Cole's brother.

Surfside 6 was set in Miami, with an opening theme by Mack David and Jerry Livingston. The program ran from 1960-1962, and -- at least to the best of my research -- didn't have much in the way of music.

Henry Mancini and John Williams

Mention jazz on TV and most people immediately think of Peter Gunn. Peter Gunn (Craig Stevens) was a cool detective whose office was a table at Mother's, a jazz club. Two successful LPs of the music from "Peter Gunn" were issued during the show's three-year run (1958-1961). Musicians included jazz stalwarts such as Pete Candioli (trumpet), Red Mitchell (bass), Shelly Manne (drums), and Johnny Williams (piano).

Johnny Williams also played the jazz organ for Mancini's Mr. Lucky soundtrack. Though only lasting two seasons (1959-1960), the show also produced two popular LPs.

Johnny Staccato (1959-1960) tried top Peter Gunn by having their detective be a jazz pianist. Elmer Bernstein wrote a hard-driving West Coast jazz score, and Johnny Williams' piano playing was dubbed in for actor John Cassavetes.

In the late 1950s, TV westerns were on the decline and detective shows on the rise. Shotgun Slade (1959-1961) tried to split the difference. Though set in the west of the 1880s, this show about a private detective used a modern jazz score. Gerald Fried wrote the music, arranged by Johnny

Williams moved from arranger to composer for Checkmate (1960-1962). Created by Eric Ambler, it featured an elite private investigator firm that specialized in blocking crimes before they happened. The soundtrack was suitably sophisticated and cool. Williams would eventually come to be known as "John" rather than "Johnny" and write soundtracks for "Star Wars," "Jaws," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and many, many other films.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Diabelli Project 163 - Benedictus for SATB

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.

One of the fun things about doing these flash composition sketches is that sometimes I surprise myself. When I started the ten-minute timer, I had no idea what I would write. Then the opening phrase of the Benedictus popped into my head, and the rest just flowed.

I've already sketched an Agnus Dei and a Kyrie in this series. Are they all part of the same mass setting? Not sure. The tonal centers these three movements are in do fit together. So perhaps there's something there.

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, September 22, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 067 - Freight Car

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.

067. Freight Car

This is the sixth and final car in the train shown on the set's box art. It was also the simplest of the six to build. Note that there's no dowel shown sticking up through the upright piece.

I can't imagine just setting the piece on the car body. Perhaps its secured with a short dowel that would be entirely enclosed in the upright piece.

As I mentioned at the start of this miniseries, the Line Mar Construction Set only has enough pieces to build one unit of the train. One way to build the complete train is, of course, to use multiple sets. I preferred to use Photoshop.

The Line Mar Train

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Daniel Jones Symphonies 2 & 11 - Complex yet simple

Lyrita Records embarked on their Daniel Jones symphonic cycle in the 1970s. It's good to have them available again in digital form.

Early in his career, this Welsh composer devised his own musical language that served him well. Jones' Complex Metres system used asymmetrical patterns. These patterns never quite align as they repeat. That gives Jones' music a restless fluidity that provides its forward motion.

The two symphonies on this re-release make a good pair. Jones completed his second symphony in 1950. He experimented with serial techniques, which are prominent in this work. His eleventh symphony is firmly rooted in tonality, albeit an expanded one.

Both works incorporate Jones' Complex Metres, and both use large orchestras. After the second symphony, Jones pared back his scope. Symphonies three through ten use more modest-sized orchestras. Symphony No. 11, written in memoriam for a colleague and friend. It marks Jones' return to an expanded orchestra.

Though three decades separate these works, they're remarkably similar in style and sound. Both feature some imaginative melodic writing. And to my ears, they have a cosmopolitan sound. They don't sound especially Welsh, or even British. They're simply the expression of an individual with a unique perspective.

Lyrita employed some of the best musicians for this project. For this release, it was the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra and Bryden Thomson. I doubt we'll hear these works performed with deeper understanding and commitment.

Daniel Jones: Symphonies 2 & 11
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra; Bryden Thomson, conductor
Lyrita SRCD364

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Burney Sonatas for Piano Four Hands: Birth of a Genre

I learned three things from this release.
  1. Charles Burney was a composer
  2. Charles Burney was a pretty good composer
  3. Charles Burney pioneered and popularized a musical genre
Charles Burney is best remembered today as a music journalist and musicologist. He wrote in great detail of his European tours. Those volumes provide invaluable documentation about late 18th-Century performance practices.

Burney also seemed to visit just about every major and minor composer on the continent. His writing provides insightful impressions of their personalities and their music.

What's not remembered is that Burney was also a prolific composer himself. In fact, recordings of his music are practically non-existent.

In 1777 Burney self-financed the publication of four sonatas for piano four hands. He might not have been the first composer to write for this combination, but he made it popular.

Before Burney's publication, music for two keyboard players meant two instruments. After Burney, other composers, such as J.C. Bach, Clementi, and Mozart wrote for piano four hands.

The eight sonatas on this release are played on an English square piano. This early pianoforte is the instrument Burney had in mind, but it's a far cry from a modern piano. The action is noisy, and the attacks can be harsh-sounding.

And yet, as I listened, I eventually became used to the sound and could appreciate it for its own merits. Burney wrote with the capabilities of the square piano in mind. Thus, the instrument's well-suited for the music.

Anna Clemente and Susanna Piolanti perform with a lightness of touch I didn't think possible on a square piano. They bring out all the dynamics and expressive shading of the works. And they use the rough sound of the square piano to good advantage. Dissonances sound almost contemporary with their edginess and loud passage ring with authority.

If authentic instruments aren't for you, then you might want to give this a pass. But if you'd like to enjoy some fine music-making from the early Classical era, give this release a listen. I found it enlightening.

Charles Burney: Sonatas for piano four hands
Anna Clemente, Susanna Piolanti, piano four hands
Brilliant Classics

Monday, September 18, 2017

Diabelli Project 162 - Woodwind Quintet

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.

Things are a little disjointed right now. This summer I fell behind on making the fair copies of my Diabelli Project sketches (the one below's dated 6/23/17). And as I write this in September 2017 I'm working on a legitimate full-size woodwind quintet composition.

This rash of woodwind quintet flash compositions represents the germ of my inspiration.  But I'm currently much further along in the process than these posts suggest. Really.

In today's offering, the French horn has the melody, punctuated by the ensemble in eighth notes. If I were to use this sketch, I'd probably make the second measure 4/4 and change the last two beats from eighth notes to 16th notes. It makes more sense with what follows.

And had I not run out of time, I would have had all five instruments playing a descending pattern in stacked thirds and landing on a new tonal center (to be determined later).

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, September 15, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 066 - Crane Car

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.

066. Crane Car

The fifth car in the train shown on the construction set's box art is labelled a crane car. It's not a bad model, but it promises more play value than it can deliver.

If you look at the illustration carefully, you'll see a knob sticking out of the cab. The implication is that it will turn the dowel, and thus raise or lower the hook at the end of the string.

Well, that knob is actually a wooden collar, and it doesn't grip the dowel very tightly. The "hook" appears to be four fiberboard washers around a small dowel. All of that is extremely light-weight. I think only a single strand of sewing thread would be thin enough to actually stay within the guides of the crane arm and move up and down.

If the crank worked. Which it doesn't. And how would you secure the thread to the dowel and washer assembly?

I'm using florist wire as a string/thread substitute for this project. I substituted a wooden collar for the washers, and secured it by bending the end of the wire after threading it through.

For a static shot, I think it worked just fine.

The Line Mar Train

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Graupner: Passion Cantatas Vol. 1 - Pure Baroque Goodness

This release launches a cycle of Passion Cantatas by Christoph Graupner. And it's pure German Baroque goodness.

Christoph Graupner (1683-1760) was a contemporary of Bach, Telemann, and Handel. And he was as highly regarded as his contemporaries. When Telemann turned down the Leipzig Cantorate position in 1723, Graupner was offered the job. When he was forced to decline, settled on their third choice -- Johann Sebastian Bach.

Originally, musical settings of the Passion (the suffering of Christ) were presented during Holy Week. They usually took the form of large-scale oratorios.

Lutheran musical tradition expanded settings of the Passion into Lent. These Passion cantatas were shorter, but more numerous. There were ten Sundays in Lent -- each requiring a different cantata. The three cantatas in this release all come from a cycle Graupner composed in 1741.

Graupner, like Bach, illustrated his texts subtly through music. The cantata Erzittre, toll und freche Welt, (Tremble, mad and impudent world,), opens with a hesitant and trembling ritornello. The aria Menschenfreund, ach welch Verlangen trägst du doch nach meinem Heil? (What yearning is this?) has a rising melody that always turns down just before reaching resolution.

These are just two of many examples. To fully appreciate Gaupner's artistry, I recommend following along with the printed text as the music plays.

Ex Tempore and the Barockorchester Mannheimer Hofkapelle perform admirably directed by Florian Heyerick. And no wonder -- Heyerick is one of the leading authorities on Graupner's music.

This is also one of the best-recorded early music releases I've heard in a while. The ensemble has a clean, transparent sound. The soloists sound natural with full, unforced tones.

Christoph Graupner: Das Leiden Jesu
Passion Cantatas I (1741)
Solistenensemble Ex Tempore
Barockorchester Mannheimer Hofkapelle
Florian Heyerick
CPO 555 071–2        

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4 - Study in Contrasts

This installment of Naxos' László Lajtha symphony reissues presents three sides of the composer. Wisely, the three works aren't programmed in order.

The disc leads off with Lajtha's Symphony No. 6, completed in 1955. The imaginative orchestration gives the ensemble an open sound, especially with the brass. The outer movements crackle with high-energy rambunctiousness, encasing the sparkling middle movements.

Lajtha wrote that his Symphony No. 5 was "very tragic, epic, like a ballad." Perhaps so, but to me, it also had an elegiac quality to it. It reminded me of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Sinfonia Antarctica," which, like Lajtha's work, was written in 1952.

It was a bad time for Lajtha. He had spent a year in London, working on the film score to "Murder in the Cathedral" (which he would turn into his fourth symphony). The Communist authorities considered him "contaminated" and stripped him of all official positions. Symphony No. 5 reflects that unsettled dread, yet its lyrical passages seem cautiously hopeful.

The final work sweeps away the gloom. Lajtha's 1933 ballet score for Lysistrata bustles with good humor, continually winking at the audience.

Nicolás Pasquet and the Pécs Symphony Orchestra perform well for the most part. The first violins strings seemed to sound a little wobbly in the upper register. It was especially obvious in exposed passages that were meant to be played delicately and softly.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 4
Symphony No. 6, Op. 61; Symphony No. 5, Op. 55; Lysistrata - Ballet Op. 19
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor 
Naxos 8.573645

Friday, September 08, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 065 - Dump Car

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.

065. Dump Car

The dump car was the fourth in the train shown on the construction set's box art. The biggest problem I had was trying to figure out just what the illustration was supposed to represent.

It looked as if the far side of the car had a covering of some kind. I couldn't quite figure out if that was the case, and if so, how to attach it.  The illustration shows the cover (if that's what it is) just resting on the upright posts.

But then, this wasn't an accurate image. I t shows a long dowel rod spanning the car, with two fiberboard washers in the middle. The dowels that came with the set didn't extend far enough to secure with washers at the end as shown. I compromised by using two dowel rods joined with a wooden collar.

Yes, the wire work isn't very good in the photo. But after wrestling with this very fragile construction for almost an hour, I finally got it to stay long enough to take a picture.

I'm still wondering what the illustration was trying to show me, though.

The Line Mar Train

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Persichetti Harpsichord Sonatas - Appealingly Modern

If you only know the harpsichord as an 18th-century instrument, Persichetti's sonatas can be a little disorienting. The harmonies, the counterpoint, and the melodies are all mid-20th century. It sounds nothing like Bach.

And yet Persichetti managed to write music that's thoroughly idiomatic to the instrument. And Christopher D. Lewis, a specialist in modern harpsichord literature, gets the most out of that music.

The album includes five of Persichetti's nine sonatas written for the instrument (plus a serenade). The first sonata was composed in 1951. The others -- nos. 3, 5, 8, and 9 -- date from the 1980s.

These works from Persichetti's final decade are finely-crafted, indeed. Persichetti uses layered textures instead of volume to add emphasis. Chromatic melodies may have a tonal base, but not necessarily triadic.

Pan-diatonic chords and polytonality create textures at odds with the harpsichord's Baroque heritage. Nevertheless, it works. Lewis' phrasing and precise execution bring out the best in these works, clearly outlining Persichetti's musical structures.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of thoroughly modern harpsichord music.

Vincent Persichetti: Harpsichord Sonatas
Christopher D. Lewis, harpsichord
Naxos 8.559842

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Cosmography of Polyphony Surveys the Renaissance

Webster's defines cosmography as "a description of the world." In "Cosmography of Polyphony," the Royal Wind Music describe their world of renaissance music through their concert repertoire. This ensemble of twelve recorder players presents music from Johannes Ockeghem (early 1500s) through Johann Sebastian Bach (mid-1700s).

Playing polyphonic vocal works on instruments was standard practice in the renaissance (as was doubling vocal parts with instruments). So Maria Martinez Ayerz's arrangements are within the realm of early music performance practices.

The ensemble presents a nice variety of styles, too. There's a highly chromatic madrigal by Carlo Gesualdo, as well as cheerier fare by Anthony Holborne.

The Royal Wind Music performs with an astounding precision and unity of vision. At times the ensemble sounds like an organ or calliope played by a single individual. Ayerza's arrangements use many different types of recorders, and not every one gets played in every selection. It's that subtle variety that I most appreciated as I listened to this recording.

A worthy musical cosmography, indeed.

Cosmography of Polyphony: A Musical Journey through Renaissance Music with 12 recorders 
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Antoine Brumel, Hernando de Cabezón, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Carlo Gesualdo, Nicolas Gombert, Anthony Holborne, Alonso Lobo, Johannes Ockeghem, Osbert Parsley, Pierre Phalèse, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, Adrian Willaert 
The Royal Wind Music 
Petri Arvo, Hester Groenleer, María Martínez Ayerza: artistic directors 
Pan Classics PC 10377

Friday, September 01, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 064 - Lumber Car

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.

064. Lumber Car

This is the third car in the train shown on the box art. It was a pretty simple build, and has an enormous cheat.

Line Mar's building kit only came with eight long dowel rods. In this model, two are used as axles. Four provide the stakes for the load. So only two remain to serve as the lumber load itself.

Yet the picture shows a whole pile of long dowel rods. Shortly after I received this set, I made some replacement dowel rods. Over the past 80 years the original dowels had swollen and warped, and I've been using the replacement dowels for a lot of the builds.

In this case, I used both the original dowels and the replacements to provide a decent load for the lumber car.