The Farce Awakens

January 20, 2017 at 10:20 am

Since ‘Murica has turned into a reality TV spin-off, we better pick some appropriate theme music.

It’s tempting to use Art Music to make some clever jokes, but it just doesn’t feel funny because it’s real. Well, let the farce begin. Thankfully, a composer (from ‘Murica, no less) has already composed music which we could use for the run of this TV series: Music for a Farce, by Paul Bowles. And it’s a good thing, since clearly this administration isn’t interested in the arts.

Nah, I take it back. This music is too enjoyable. Let’s Fucik instead.

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Happy Rosh Hashanah!

October 3, 2016 at 10:17 am

Today marks the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, and the beginning of the High Holy Days. This festival comes from a biblical command God gave to Moses:

In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of complete rest, a holy convocation commemorated with trumpet blasts.

Trumpet blasts? Sounds good to me. How about Leonard Bernstein‘s Chichester Psalms? Bernstein only wrote a handful of religious works; you could argue that his Kadish Symphony and Mass are better described as anti-religious. The Chichester Psalms is unique in his repertoire as having a positive spin on religion, even if it isn’t backed by any belief on his part. The piece bears an English name because it was commissioned by Chichester Cathedral. It is often performed in a slightly strange reduced instrumentation – organ, percussion, and harp. Though they are often found in synagogues, the organ here perhaps acts as a symbol for Christianity, while the harp and percussion call to mind the ancient Hebrew psalms. In the first movement (today’s piece) they sing from Psalm 108:

Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn.

With the synthesis of Jewish and Christian instruments, the Hebrew text, and an Anglican Cathedral’s name on the piece, makes me want to see this work as a symbol of healing between the two religions.

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DIY musical instrument

March 5, 2016 at 10:00 am

We’ve all done this — you’re sitting at a desk; all of a sudden, you have a primal urge to make music. Maybe you tap your toes, maybe you drum on the desk, maybe you just swing your body to the music playing in your head. One of my schoolmates would play the “William Tell Overture” in class by tapping on his teeth. If you asked him how he could play the correct pitches just by moving his mouth, his answer was “I just know it.” We all have some of that in us.

Humans can find ways to make music out of anything. Anything! When you consider that, then Thierry De Mey‘s piece “Table Music” isn’t so strange. It might be considered avant-garde since it doesn’t use traditional concert instruments, but in terms of form, it’s pretty conservative – a combination of old and new that has made this piece a relative hit!

Be sure to watch the video, and not just listen to the audio.

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