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Lituus Play

May 31st, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in classical music, instruments

A graduate student (Who seems to actually accomplish things. Bastard.) recently helped to re-introduce an extinct, and ridiculously unwieldy instrument back into the wild. The impractical device in question is called the Lituus, and it’s a basically a really long horn. Over 8ft long, in fact (that’s two-and-a-half-ish meters, metric folk). Can you imagine trying to pack that baby up at the end of a concert? Yeah. That’s probably why no-one has been using it for the last 300 years.

Despite not having a drawing of what the thing looked like, or even a proper ye olde description of it, the researchers used vague hints about it’s shape and tonal range to come up with a design using witchcraft and/or simulation software. And it works. They even played BWV 118 with two of the little beasts this year. No YouTube video yet. There is a short clip of it over on the BBC website, though.

I’m curious about the software they used to design this thing. I wonder if instead of optimizing it to be a simple straight line, they can make it really, really complicated instead. Like with TONNES of twisting and spiraling and turns and crap. Maybe you could fold it into a sphere, or a cube. You could have a whole set of platonic solid shaped horns.

Reason number 5,183 why I want a metal-working shop in my garage.

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Comp. Abbrev.

May 27th, 2009 | 4 Comments | Posted in classical music

Yo what up! I’ve been, like, slightly in absentia recently due to retrieving G from deep within the midsts and/or mists of graduation. Now she has been plonked back in this area code for good, for now. Hoorays all round. Good job.

Despite the near weekly gap in posts, there was some vigorous commenting on my dubious abbreviation of Tchaikovsky from last Thursday’s post, in which some of the regular commenting crew (thanks dudes) shared their abbreviations. So far we have:

  • Prok
  • Rach
  • Shosty/Shost
  • Tchaik

for the Russians. Extrapolating this, does anyone use Strav? Or, errrr, Khat? Or… RimsKors? (RiKo?)

I feel like the Russians get extra special abbreviation priveleges, because their names are so syllable-heavy. And unwieldy, at least for non Cyrillic mouths. The abbreviations are actually practical, since it saves about ten minutes everytime you type or say the shortened version. So far the only (potential) non-Russian name abbreviation has been Wolfy for Mozart, which is an affectionate shortening instead of a timesaver.

So, any more meandering around out there?

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May 20th, 2009 | 6 Comments | Posted in classical music, tchaikovsky, youtube

Oh yeah. Forgot to stick this in the very exciting and meaningful and touching discussion about acquired tastes yesterday… the ROCOCO VARIATIONS. Mister Tchaikovsky. Here’s the youtubey experience for you crazy kids who can’t concentrate without some audio/visual accessories thrust in front of their grinning face:

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Part two:

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Aaaaaaand part three:

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T’sky (c’mon, his name doesn’t abbreviate well, give me some slack) is one of the ultra-famous composers who I don’t mesh with so well. If he was in my class at school I’d probably hang out with him, but when it was just us, without anyone else, it’d be hard to make conversation. I can see why people might get really into his music — and there are some pieces I really like: certain movements of the symphonies, Marche Slave, etc.  — BUT in general, ennnnh…. he doesn’t really do it for me.

BUT (again), recently the rococo variations have slipped and slided and skidded into the front bit of my perception. The first time I heard the piece properly (as in, not as an incidental piece on a CD which got glossed over as background music) was at the ROM in Toronto with G, when we got given free tickets to an unexpected concert on a Friday night. There were kids crying and people walking around the museum about 50 feet away, but that performance sowed the seed of future recognition.

You know how sometimes there is particular mote which catches your eye in a piece? A snippet of melody, or a key modulation, or weird orchestral texture — something small which ends up being the spoon on which the rest of the piece gets fed to you? Well with the Rococo variations it’s the orchestral bit at the end of the variation. Or is it? I can’t tell if it is the end or the beginning (but then, I’m fairly musically retarded) and that sort of adds to the mystique…

It’s the bit between 2:35 and 2:50 in the first video above. Particularly the last three seconds. It rocks!!!

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Getting Smutty

May 19th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in classical music, shostakovich, youtube

smutty_ipaSmuttyNOSED that is! Ba-dum tssch. It’s the guy over there on the left, one of these. This is basically my bestest, most favorite brand of beer, and there is one sitting next to me right now. Unfortunately it’s now a bit empty — about 99% empty, and I’m not touching the lukewarm dregs. Back in the glory days though, with knights and such, about fifty minutes ago, it was full.

It’s hoppy as hell. It drips IBUs like a wet cat.

Here I am tonight enjoying two acquired tastes. Hoppy beer and classical music. For the first unperformance of the evening I listened to that old standby, Shosty’s CC#2. It’s one of my oldest and deepest favorites, one which will ALWAYS shove a warm dagger directly between my cerebral hemispheres. SLICE, goes the first morose saw across the cello; ignore everything else but this.

Here is Rostropovich playing the first movement. Well sort of. The video cuts off right in the middle of the big climax, and there is no part 2 for the first movement. Aggggh! Well, what you do get is frickin’ sweet. He’s got this kinda coarse, throaty, push-it-to-the-last-millisecond way with his playing. It’s sexy stuff:

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Wolfram Alpha

May 18th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in music

The geekier amongst you may have been aware of the latest please-oh-please competitor to Google being released last Friday. It’s called Wolfram Alpha, and it’s actually pretty clever — it’s got a little search niche all to itself. The idea is that it’s an interface to organized data, instead of just an interface to a bunch of other webpages. That means you can do queries like:  “Wisconsin median household income / musician salary” or “calories in 1 bowl of corn flakes + a glass of OJ” or “probability full house“. And tonnes of other stuff.

Some of my favorite tools are the music ones, since (as I’ve harped on about before) I don’t have a music education, but love trying to understand formal structures and intervals and such. It lets you work out:

All of these produce cute little diagrams of piano keys, along with other miscellaneous information.

You can also search for composers and get a little timeline, but that isn’t terribly impressive right now. It seems pretty clueless about pieces as well: Beethoven’s 5th give you info about the (horrible) movie, for example.

Does anyone have any more musical searches which work out nicely?

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