Wikipedia Woes

October 8, 2016 at 12:04 pm

I graduated from college before Wikipedia became big, so I’ve never had a professor scold me for using it as a source. I have heard about people submitting papers which completely incorrect information, due to faulty articles and non-expert sources. I remain on the fence in this battle, because either one expert or a collective group of people are equally capable of getting things wrong, not to mention that zeitgeists seem to have way too much influence on what is considered fact. I was happy being blissfully ignorant of what was real and what was fake on Wikipedia.

Until today.

Now, there are untruths that hurt people directly, like the supposed link between vaccines and autism. And then there are untruths that may not directly hurt people, but waste human effort and create a distrust of expertise – perhaps like the modern Flat Earth Society. And then there are untruths that don’t cause any real damage, but really piss me off. Like the Wikipedia article on Johannes BrahmsPiano Quartet in G minor.

Traditional sonata form begins with an exposition, which typically has two contrasting themes (occasionally there may be a third theme). The article claims that there are five – FIVE – themes in the first movement. If this were true, the first theme returns in developed version before the third theme is heard. What the author thinks is two themes is simply a short introduction, followed by a single primary theme. Like nearly every sonata, there is a transitional section which brings us to the secondary theme (or, the author’s proposed third theme). The proposed fourth theme is simply the end of the real secondary theme, and theme five is a coda. The only correct thing the author said is: Although the exposition is not repeated, Brahms creates the illusion of its repetition by starting the development section with the identical ten measures that begins the exposition.

And then the ultimate lie: Very atypically, the recapitulation begins not with the first theme, but with the second theme in G major. Sorry, but actually the recapitulation did begin with the primary theme, it just happened way later than you thought. There is no “imitative development” (whatever that is) in the recapitulation. Lastly, in what way is the exposition’s final cadence “reluctant”, and the recapitulation’s final cadence “incomplete”?



A Black Sheep that Outshines the Flock

April 27, 2016 at 10:30 am

Oh man, there are soooooo many good Viola jokes. How many, you ask? So many, that Wikipedia has a an entry for “Viola Jokes“.

The viola is definitely the black sheep of the string family. Essentially, it’s an oversized violin – but it’s out of proportion to the violin and the cello – the body is larger than the violin, but the neck isn’t proportionally longer, and so the strings aren’t as tense as the violin or cello, giving it a sound distinct from its family members (a subtle difference, but it’s there.) Historically, violinists who couldn’t cut it on the violin were “demoted” to viola, which tended to have boring, easier parts to play.

But that was soooooo 1700. Nowadays, violists might still be the black sheep, but they can play just as well as their violin/cello counterparts, and have even managed to score a handful of pieces specifically for their instrument. Carl Maria von Weber was attracted to the dark, muted timbre of the instrument, and churned out this little two-movement Hungarian dance for the instrument.