Notes on Music

Notes on Music is heard throughout the week on KLRE, Classical 90.5, and is written and voiced by Ray Moore.

Ray Moore is Professor Emeritus of Music and former Director of Choral Studies at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 

Dr. Moore received his Bachelor's degree in music from Texas Tech University, and both his Master's and Doctorate from Columbia University.

Moore has published a book, High Notes and Low, based on his Notes on Music spots. You can purchase the book at amadeuspress.com. And you can learn more about his book in this video:

The Beatles Tree

Aug 26, 2014

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ U.S. debut on the Ed Sullivan television show, and interest in the group is as strong as ever.

In 2004, a tree was planted in Griffith Park in Los Angeles in honor of George Harrison, a member of the group.

Unfortunately, the tree died this year, ironically it seems, from an infestation of... guess what... beetles!

Clapping

Aug 26, 2014

We all applaud after a special event, but have you ever wondered about its use?

Instead of clapping, the ancient Romans snapped their fingers, stomped their feet, or waved handkerchiefs.

A claque, which is French for “clapping”, are people who are paid to applaud, primarily in opera theaters. And clapping was even used to reward good preaching in early times.

Auto-Tune 7

Aug 26, 2014

Have you ever stood by someone in church who simply can’t carry a tune? I think we all have.

Well, you might want to recommend to them “Auto-Tune 7”, an electronic device that, in recordings, corrects intonation and timing problems in singing while keeping the original sound of the voice.

I’m going to tell that tone-deaf church singer all about it!

Sharon Isbin

Aug 26, 2014

Sharon Isbin, born in Minneapolis in 1956, has been called “the pre-eminent guitarist of our time.”

A multi-Grammy winner, she has appeared as soloist with over 170 orchestras, and has played in venues from television and movies to a 2009 concert at the White House.

It’s interesting that her father was a nuclear physicist. I guess great minds run in the family.

The Origin of Throat

Aug 26, 2014

Singers are very aware of keeping their throats healthy.

Interestingly, the word “throat” originates from the French “gargouille,” which translates as “throat.”

It is also the origin of the word “gargoyle”, grotesque imaginary creatures found on the roofs of many Gothic churches.

The gargoyle has an open mouth and “throat” to funnel the water away from the building.

Conductor Lorin Maazel

Aug 26, 2014

The music world lost conductor Lorin Maazel recently, who died at his home in Virginia at the age of 84.

Amazingly, he was invited by Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony at the age of seven, with his New York Philharmonic debut coming only five years later.

In 2002, he was chosen to replace Kurt Mazur as music director of that orchestra. Quite a musician!

Virtual Youth Choir

Aug 26, 2014

In cooperation with UNICEF, composer Eric Whitacre has created the Virtual Youth Choir, a global project that creates a user-generated online choir wherein children and young people are asked to record video of themselves singing a selected piece of music.

A final video is then created using all the singers which is broadcast on global TV.

That’s neat!

Words of Wisdom

Aug 26, 2014

Words of wisdom, more or less, have been offered by many composers.

Leonard Bernstein said, “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”

And George Bizet wrote, “As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, [and] the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note!”

Music and The Retail Sector

Aug 26, 2014

I guess we are all aware that merchants arrange their stores so as to psychologically influence the shopper to buy more.

From supermarkets to restaurants, background music affects a customer’s behavior in subtle ways.

It seems that customers react more positively to soft music rather than loud; moderate tempos rather than fast ones; and classical music rather than popular.

The Rondo, Opus 129

Aug 26, 2014

The Rondo, Opus 129 for piano by Beethoven was titled by publisher Anton Diabelli as Rage Over a Lost Penny.

Beethoven was known for his temper, and one can imagine that losing any money could enrage him.

The work is one of his most popular, however, and is even used by some as their cell phone ring tone. I guess they’ve lost money, too!

Bolero by Maurice Ravel

Aug 26, 2014

Bolero by Maurice Ravel is one of his most remembered and popular compositions.

Interestingly, as he was composing the work, Ravel began showing symptoms of frontotemporal dementia, which some say contributed to the extended musical repetitions in the piece.

He underwent a brain operation to correct his condition, but died soon after.

The Common Language of Art

Jul 10, 2014

It’s so very interesting that all of the arts share a common language, although each demonstrates the terms differently.

Music, painting, and dance all refer to such components: line, color, density, dynamics, harmony, form, balance, rhythm, tempo, and texture are just a few characteristics all have in common.

Perhaps that’s why we typically enjoy experiencing more than just one art.

Classical and Rock Music

Jul 10, 2014

Classical music and rock may not be as far apart as one might think.

Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor has been “borrowed” by rock musicians at least 38 times; Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee has been recorded at least thirty times by as many rock artists; and Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King recorded in at least forty versions. 

The Stars and Stripes Forever

Jul 10, 2014

John Philip Sousa composed The Stars and Stripes Forever on Christmas Day, 1896, and through an act of Congress in 1987 it was made the official National March of the United States.

We hear it at so many patriotic gatherings, and enjoy it greatly.

But did you know it actually has words? It ends: “The red and white and starry blue is freedom’s shield and hope.”

Harp Peelers

Jul 10, 2014

Metal peelers make taking the skin off of fruits and vegetables fairly effortless.

With only a few strokes, one can have the food ready for cooking in no time.

I especially like a harp peeler that has the blade perpendicular to the handle. The musical connection: the frame is a loop that is shaped like the body of a harp.

I don’t believe there are any clarinet peelers, however!

Giant Composers

Jul 10, 2014

Huge choirs, massive orchestras, and great music that spans the heights of human emotion seem larger than life. But actually how tall were the great composers themselves?

Grieg seems to be the shortest at 5’1”; Beethoven was 5’2”, while Chopin was 5’5”; Liszt was 6’. The tallest seems to be Rachmaninoff at 6’6”. 

But they are all giants to me.

A Bird's Voice Box

Jul 10, 2014

We all speak and sing by vibrating vocal cords located in our larynx, or voice box.

A bird’s voice box is called a syrinx, from the Greek for “pan pipes,” and produces sounds without having the vocal cords of mammals.

The sound is produced by vibrations of the walls of the syrinx, which even enable some species of birds, such as parrots, to mimic human speech.

Synesthetes

Jul 10, 2014

Contemporary composer Michael Torke is a synesthete, or a person who actually sees colors when listening to pitches or complete compositions.

Following this trait, he has composed Color Music, a suite made up of music that represents specific colors to him.

Included are titles such as “Bright Blue Music”, “Ecstatic Orange”, “Green Music”, and “Purple.” How interesting.

Heitor Villa-Lobos

Jul 10, 2014

Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, has written numerous symphonies, operas, chamber music, and concertos, among other forms, with perhaps Bachianas Brasileiras, his tribute to Bach, being one of the best-known.

However, he wrote one Broadway musical in 1948, Magdalena, which, to that date, was the most expensive show to have been produced on Broadway.

Tragedy and Goats

Jul 10, 2014

The Greek tragedies have provided ample sources for opera.

Indeed, Elektra and King Priam have been the basis for such operas as Wozzeck, Parsifal, Faust, and even Carmen.

It’s interesting that the word “tragedy” derives from tragos, meaning “goat song,” and aeidein, “to sing.”

Scholars indicate that this references a goat being the prize in a singing competition.

27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores

Jul 10, 2014

World-famous violinist, Hilary Hahn, while appreciating the existing music usually played as encores, has expanded the repertoire in what she calls “27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores”, for which she commissioned twenty-seven composers, each to write one.

The composers are probably not well-known to the general public, but aren’t we glad she is expanding the violin repertoire?

Polovtsian Dances

Jul 10, 2014

The “Polovtsian Dances” from the opera Prince Igor by Rimsky-Korsakov are the most often-performed portion of the opera and often all that is remembered of the work.

The people represented in the opera were called Polovtsy by the Russians, and were referred to as “the blond ones.” And so, the selections are really about the “dances of the yellow-haired people.”

Jerry Springer: The Opera

Jul 10, 2014

Believe it or not, TV's The Jerry Springer Show spawned a British musical in 2003, Jerry Springer: The Opera, written by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee.

It is notable for its profanity, the irreverent treatment of Judeo-Christian themes, and surreal images, such as a troupe of tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll skip this one!

"I can't reach the brakes on this piano!"

Apr 9, 2014

These are some of the amazing statements accumulated by music teachers in Missouri:

 “I can’t reach the brakes on the piano.”  “A virtuoso is a musician with real high morals.”  “ A harp is a nude piano.”  “When electric currents go through guitars, they start making sounds.  So would anybody.”  And finally, “I know what a sextet is, but I’d rather not say.” 

Classical Music and Higher Education

Apr 9, 2014

A national survey reported in The Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study 2002, indicates that 40% of adults who have attended graduate school, and 25% with an undergraduate college degree, attended a classical-music concert in the past 12 months.

 In contrast, about 8% with only a high-school education attended. We need to work to improve these statistics!

Classical Music for Couch Potatoes

Apr 9, 2014

One doesn’t immediately associate classical-music composers with television theme songs, but it happens!

 Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #2 is used for Firing Line, Alfred Hitchcock used Charles Gounod’s Funeral March for a Marionette for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee announced The Green Hornet. You never know...

John Cage: As Slow As Possible

Apr 9, 2014

            Twentieth-century composer John Cage broke many music traditions, not the least of which was to designate his 1987 composition for organ, ASLAP, to be played as slowly as possible, hence the title’s acronym (As SLow aS Possible).

 

A performance of the piece was begun in 2001 in Halberstade, Germany, and is scheduled to last 639 years, ending in 2640!

While horseback riding in 1937, Cole Porter’s horse fell, throwing him to the ground, and then rolled over his legs, badly crushing them.

 The doctors wanted to amputate both but Porter refused to allow the operation. Although he was left in constant pain for the rest of his life, he continued to give us such wonderful musicals as Kiss Me, Kate and High Society.

Edward Elgar: Inspired by Nature

Apr 9, 2014

The Dream of Gerontius, composed by Edward Elgar in 1900, is an oratorio which relates the journey of a pious man’s soul from his deathbed to his judgement before God.

 While composing the work, Elgar would often walk from his cottage to a nearby village along a tree-lined lane. After one such walk he wrote, “The trees are singing my music.  Or have I sung theirs?”

Meddling with Medleys

Apr 9, 2014

In music, a medley consists of a number of different melodies presented one after the other within the same continuous piece of music.

 An example of this is often found in opera overtures, where the composer introduces the various melodies to be heard individually as the opera progresses. The term comes from Middle English and literally means “to meddle.”

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