Miss Music Nerd Finds Fame, Fortune!

NaBloPoMo Day 31! I made it — woot!

Well, fame, at least. Sorta. You’ve gotta start somewhere! 😉

Last fall while I was in the midst of the 30 Days Project, I was interviewed for an online publication called Michigan Women’s Forum. Since then, I’ve been checking the site periodically to see if the interview had been published. Well voilà! Here it is!

lk-color-small.jpgCalendar Girl: Michigan composer pens 30 songs, one day at a time.

At the time of the interview, I was posting the pieces on the blog McDoc and I started for recording our adventures in our new hometown, Our Detroit Odyssey. That blog has been sadly neglected of late… after all, I’m only one blogger! Anyway, that’s the link the interview gives, but I imported all of the 30 Days posts into Miss Music Nerd, so this is a better link for them. (The old links might not have audio anymore — oh, bother…)

In other news, it seems like only yesterday that McDoc and I embarked on the whirlwind adventure that brought me to my current location, sitting here alternatively typing and gazing out at a partly cloudy Michigan sky. But it has actually been almost one whole year since McDoc’s med school graduation, our wedding the next day, and our scenic San Diego-to-Michigan drive the following weekend (I can tell you, Piccolo has no interest in repeating a trip like that any time soon!). So we’re celebrating this weekend with a little trip to the exotic land of Windsor, Ontario. We hear you can get good Italian food there. 😀 Onward — south to Canada!


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    Rhythm and the City

    NaBloPoMo Day 30!

    I realized recently that I really need to remedy a particular gap in my musical knowledge: I can tell when a rhythm sounds “Latin,” but I couldn’t necessarily explain the difference between a rumba, and samba, a tango and a cha-cha-cha. It’s the kind of thing where I know it when I hear it, but I can’t define it precisely. (Kind of like obscenity! 😉 )

    The reason it’s on my mind at the moment? Well, it’s a testament to my aversion to crowds that I’m at home tonight instead of at the movie theater clamoring to be among the first to see this movie. I’ll see it soon, don’t you worry — on a less-crowded weeknight, is all. 😀 Anyway, if you’ve watched the show, you’ll be familiar with its catchy theme music:

    I’ve been trying to figure out exactly which Latin rhythm is being used here, and I was searching different rhythms online and consulting the music dictionary I have here at home, and lamenting the fact that I don’t have access to the Mother of All Music Dictionaries right now.

    But then I realized, it may not conform to any particular traditional rhythm, since it was written by a couple of English dudes.

    As such, I feel I’m within my rights to interpret it as I see fit. And the way I hear it, it combines the heavy accents and deliberate tempo of a tango with the bustling rhythmic energy of a samba. Thus, a tamba… or a sango… okay, let’s just call it Latin. 😉

    Here are a couple of reference words I used to arrive at my brilliant analysis:

    Tom Jobim: “One Note Samba”

    Libertango from The Tango Lesson (Good film, btw!)

    Hey, look! That’s Yo-Yo Ma playing cello in there! Pretty cool!


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    A Classical Riot!

    One of my favorite stories from music history concerns the audience reaction at the première of Igor Stravinsky‘s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), which was given in Paris on this day in 1913 by the Ballets Russes. (I mentioned the piece during my May Day Spring Celebration post at the beginning of the month!) There was a primitivism to the music, and to Vaslav Nijinsky‘s choreography as well as the dancers’ costumes, which the audience was not expecting.

    The audience members were not shy about expressing their opinions, either, even while the performance was in progress. According to Carl Van Vechten, an American writer who was in attendance, a loud dispute broke out between audience members who immediately disapproved of the work and those who supported it, and the dancers had trouble hearing the orchestra because of all the hubbub in the house!

    The best part of Van Vechten’s description is a spontaneous interaction he had with the man seated behind him:

    He stood up during the course of the ballet to enable himself to see more clearly. The intense excitement under which he was laboring, thanks to the potent force of the music, betrayed itself presently when he began to beat rhythmically on the top of my head with his fists. My emotion was so great that I did not feel the blows for some time. They were perfectly synchronized with the beat of the music. When I did, I turned around. His apology was sincere. We had both been carried beyond ourselves.” [1]

    And you thought classical performances were stolid, boring affairs! 😉

    Here’s a recreation of what started all the fuss:


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    [1] Carl Van Vechten, Music After the Great War, (New York: G. Schirmer, 1915), 87-88, excerpted in Music in the Western World: A History in Documents, Piero Weiss and Richard Tarushkin, eds. (New York: Schirmer, 1984), 441-442.

    Happy Birthday, György!

    NaBloPoMo Day 28!

    I was just reading the Composers Datebook (like a good little Music Nerd 😉 ) and I noticed that today is the birthday of György Ligeti (1923-2006), one of my favorite composers. (I seem to have a fondness for Hungarian composers — I wrote about another one earlier this month!) Whether you’ve heard of Ligeti or not, if you’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, or Eyes Wide Shut, you’ve heard his music. (The director of these films, Stanley Kubrick, neglected to obtain Ligeti’s permission for the use of his music in 2001. Under threat of legal action, Kubrick paid Ligeti after that fact, and then did things the legit way for the subsequent films. [1])

    I mentioned recently that I had taken the scores to Books I and II of his Études pour piano out of the library. It’s kind of fun to see what the score looks like and bang out a few of the notes myself. And yeah, they’re really, really hard! Here’s an audio sample from the first one, Désordre.

    And here’s a video of one of my very favorite études, L’escalier du Diable, (The Devil’s Staircase). I played a recording of this piece for my high school students once — freaked ’em out pretty good! 😉

    I found a great quote from an account by the soprano Barbara Hannigan, who attended Ligeti’s funeral and memorial concert in Vienna, in June 2006:

    This is Ligeti: heart and mind working together in a virtuosic storm.”

    Boldog születésnapot (That’s Hungarian for Happy Birthday!), György, wherever you are!


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    [1] Russell Platt, “Clarke, Kubrick, and Ligeti: A Tale,” The New Yorker online. Retrieved 2008-05-28.

    A Little Housekeeping

    NaBloPoMo Day 27!

    I found out recently that the audio hosting site I had been using isn’t working anymore. It might come back at some point, but for the moment there are licensing issues to deal with. It’s too bad, because I was hosting my own music with them, so licensing really wasn’t an issue for me (though if they had wanted to pay me the vast sums of money that the record companies were demanding for use of their content, it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings! 😉 ). But, that’s show biz. I tend to agree with the assessment that the major-label music industry is “certifiably dysfunctional.”

    At any rate, this meant that I needed to go back and change all the audio links for the 30 Days Project. It was tedious, but it’s done now.

    So if anyone has clicked on this tab between May 1 and now and been disappointed to find no music there, please accept my apologies! It works now — I tested it! (And feel free to comment if there are any hiccups. That don’t seem to be intentionally part of the music, that is. 😀 )

    Memorial Day

    NaBloPoMo Day 26!

    It’s been a quiet Memorial Day here at McVirgo Manor. McDoc is on call at the hospital, and I puttered around the internet house as usual. I thought of going to a local parade, but then I got interested in the holiday-themed programming on my local public radio station. (As I may have mentioned in the past, In addition to being a music nerd, I am a hardcore NPR nerd). There were interviews with the small number of World War I vets who are still living — I think the youngest one was 105! It was amazing.

    I didn’t listen to the radio all day long, honest — but I did turn it on again an hour ago when I sat down to dinner. I happened to catch part of a show called Democracy Now, which can be almost too nerdy-lefty even for me, but since my usual 8 p.m. guy (don’t worry, McDoc is okay with it! 😉 ) had the holiday off, I thought I’d see what was shakin’ in commie-lib land. 😉

    Well, it was heartbreaking. I heard excerpts from an event called Winter Soldier on the Hill, wherein nine Iraq war vets testified in front of the Congressional Progressive Caucus about what’s really going on over there. (In a nutshell: it ain’t pretty.)

    Now, I’m a pacifist (a pragmatic one, but still), so I can understand that the average American might dismiss my views on war. But you can’t do the same to these veterans, who signed up for this [insert expletive-laden descriptor of choice here], which is more than most of us, elected officials included, can say.

    Anyway, when I first heard the WWI vets this morning, I immediately thought of Britten‘s War Requiem, which I wrote about before. In that previous post, I included a video of the Dies Irae‘s opening section, with all its hellfire and brimstone. Today, though, I think the Lacrimosa section is more apropos. Here’s the Latin text with translation:

    Lacrimosa dies illa,
    Qua resurget ex favilla,
    Judicandus homo reus:
    Huic ergo parce Deus.

    Oh this day full of tears
    When from the ashes arises
    Guilty man, to be judged:
    Oh Lord, have mercy upon him.

    And here’s the Wilfred Owen poem, titled “Futility,” that is interspersed with the Latin:

    Move him into the sun —
    Gently its touch awoke him once,
    At home, whispering of fields unsown.
    Always it woke him, even in France,
    Until this morning and this snow.
    If anything might rouse him now
    The kind old sun will know.

    Think how it wakes the seeds —
    Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
    Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
    Full-nerved, — still warm, — too hard to stir?
    Was it for this the clay grew tall?
    — O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
    To break earth’s sleep at all?


    On this day, let us remember the fallen, even as we seek to discern what we can do to stop adding to their number.


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    Diseases of the Great Composers!

    NaBloPoMo Day 25!

    It’s pretty nice having one’s own in-house physician. McDoc tells me when it’s time to use my inhaler (sometimes I don’t notice I’m wheezing before he does), when I need to go to the doctor for antibiotics (it’s generally looked down upon for a doc to write prescriptions for family members) and when I just need to take ibuprofen and get some rest. He also nags me to take my vitamins, a big pile of horse pills that he puts out for me every morning — ick! 😉

    You might wonder, though, how well music and medicine mix together in a household. Pretty well, as it turns out — at least one of us is highly employable! 😉 But that’s not all!

    Recently McDoc searched for info about the heart condition that Mahler developed toward the end of his life. He found a pretty cool-looking book: Music & Medicine: Medical Profiles of Great Composers, by By John O’Shea. I’ll have to look at it more closely when time permits; one thing I noticed right away was that, although syphilis certainly was popular among artistic folk in bygone centuries, at least a few composers — Mozart and Ravel, for example — were wrongly rumored to have had it. It does seem to have played a role in Beethoven’s deafness, however.

    Looks like something that belongs in the McVirgo Manor library! Fortunately, McDoc and I both have birthdays coming up within the next few months… 😉

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