vuvuzelaOkay, music nerds, so I’m a little late to this party. I hesitated to jump on the bandwagon, because I’m a fragile flower with delicate ears, but I figure I should chronicle this phenomenon for the sake of posterity… or something like that! πŸ˜‰

But first, these messages!

Plenty of time left to view and vote for my “Your OWN Show” audition video! Voting is open until July 3 at 11:59 pm Pacific Time, and you can vote as often as you wish! πŸ˜€ (Note: it takes time for the vote count to update, so don’t worry if the total doesn’t change immediately when you click the button. Thanks for your support!)


And if you’re in the Boston area, come to Jamaica Plain tomorrow night for an incredible classical music double feature, presented by JP Concerts! At 7:30 pm, the Arcturus Chamber Ensemble performs music by Mozart, Beethoven, Ginastera, and Prokofiev. Then at 9:30, classical guitarist John Muratore and accordionist/composer Roberto Cassan play Piazzolla, Debussy, Galliano, Leo Brouwer, Cassan and others. The first show is free (though donations are gratefully accepted), and the second is $10. Click here for more info.

Now, let’s get down to business!

The vuvuzela has inspired both outrage and fascination during this year’s World Cup. The outrage isn’t a one-way sentiment, either — see this hard news item: South African Vuvuzela Philharmonic Angered By Soccer Games Breaking Out During Concerts (nicely done on the choice of composers cited, BTW!)

I was glad to learn that the music nerds of the world stepped up to the plate (wait — that’s the wrong sport!) and found the serious side of all this. There’s the trumpet player Alison Balsom, who applied her stellar chops to the instrument in the video on this page (sorry I can’t embed it here). Then there’s this:

Brahms and Ravel played on the Vuvuzela

McDoc, who was a trombone player once upon a time, feels these players are overusing the high register of the instrument. I’m impressed by what they can do, but I would also like to hear some more bass vuvuzela.

Oh, wait — all I have to do is click here: Vuvuzela FM (CAUTION: autoplay site! Will buzz when you click!). Or, I can play it myself!

And if all of that isn’t enough for you, you can follow the vuvuzela on Twitter!

On the other hand, you may just want to invest in this equipment. πŸ˜‰



Music Nerdometry: The Beatles

First, a word from our sponsor: please click here to view my “Your OWN Show” audition video, and please vote for me and spread the word! Voting is open until July 3 at 11:59 pm Pacific Time. Til then, you can vote as often as you wish! πŸ˜€ (Note: the vote count doesn’t change immediately when you click the button; it takes some time to update. But it does work — I’ve been keeping an eye on it. Thanks for your support!)


And now, we return to our regularly scheduled nerdiness!

Okay, music nerds, this may be a bit controversial.

Yesterday I announced the establishment of the Department of Music Nerdometry. I started thinking about how to establish some baseline nerdometrics, and the thought came to me, “Where do the Beatles fall on the scale? And which one is the nerdiest?”

Here’s what I came up with:


The Ringo-George placement was a tough call, but I see Ringo as more goofy than truly nerdy. George, to me, is the most intellectual and introverted of the four. Besides, he earned my everlasting loyalty and affection for his answer to the “hairstyle” question in this interview scene from A Hard Day’s Night:

Any quibbles with my arrangement? Discuss! πŸ™‚


Notes From The Department of Music Nerdometry!

But first, a word from our sponsor: please click here to view my “Your OWN Show” audition video, and please vote for me and spread the word! Remember, you can vote early and often! πŸ˜€


In a couple of recent posts, I’ve referenced my nerdometer, and I’ve used this gif that I found on the intertubes:


It’s pretty good for general nerdiness, but I really need to create a true Music Nerdometer. Tonight McDoc and I started talking about what would appear at different points on the scale of music nerdiness.

First, it’s important to define one’s terms. I mean, for the most part, nerdiness is like obscenity: you know it when you see it. But sometimes when I try to think of specific examples, I find I need some guidelines. McDoc and I came up with a working definition: it involves wearing one’s heart and mind on one’s sleeve, and getting super-excited about things that others might find arcane. There’s definitely an elevated level of seriousness compared to the general population, though it can’t be said that nerds don’t have a sense of humor; it’s just that the things they find funny are, well, nerdy.

McDoc started poking around online while I finished up a little music copying project, and he found a treasure trove of material. It’ll take some time to sort through and compile it all, but here are a few quick thoughts:

  • Nerdometry is often sorely lacking in gender diversity. I’m doing what I can to change that, but I must also thankful for the existence of Lisa Loeb.
  • This website will be a rich source of material: Wolf Gnards: Nerding Pop Culture.
  • You can find nerds in any genre of music, of course, not just classical. For example: in the jazz world, the nerd scale might have Miles Davis at 0 (not nerdy at all), and Anthony Braxton at the top of the scale.

But I’m open to further suggestions, so what do you think, music nerds? People, instruments, concepts, whatever strikes you as emblematic — post it in a comment! πŸ™‚


Give Miss Music Nerd Her Own Show!

Happy Sunday, music nerds!

Yesterday I told you that I had submitted a video audition to Oprah Winfrey’s Your OWN Show contest. Well, my video is now live on the site and available for viewing and voting!! Please click here to watch and vote!!

Here’s a screenshot from the video — Clicking on it will also take you to the site where you can view it:


Voting is open until July 3 at 11:59 pm PST. The rules say you can vote “as often as you like,” and if there’s a limit, I haven’t found it yet! But I did notice that it takes time for the number to change. I’ll just keep clicking til they tell me to stop! πŸ˜€

I wish I’d heard about this contest earlier than a week or so ago, but I’m very glad I managed to submit an audition video by the deadline. The truth is, I’ve had the dream of doing a TV show like this for a while. I had only told a couple of people about it, because it seemed crazy and farfetched, and I was a little bit embarrassed to reveal having such a crazy, farfetched dream. But you know what? The process of making the video was a transformative experience for me. I was hating speaking to the camera at first, but I grew more comfortable with it the more I did it. And now, I’m proud to share my dream with the world. Oh, I still know it’s crazy, but after all, I have a reputation to uphold! πŸ˜‰


The Beakers are Bubbling in Miss Music Nerd Labs!

Greetings, music nerds!

Well, I was going for the NaBloPoMo gold this month, but I won’t quite make it. I went to bed without posting back on June 4, when McDoc and I went to dinner to celebrate our anniversary, and then again last night, when I was working on a project that I’m going to ask your help with shortly!

Maybe you’ve heard of Your OWN Show, a contest that Oprah Winfrey is running to for aspiring talk show hosts. I only heard of it about a week ago, but I’ve been thinking for a while that I would love to have a show where I could feature all sorts of music nerdy things. And I’m going to need you to vote for me and spread the word once my audition video is posted on Oprah’s website (I’ve uploaded it, but it takes a few hours to become available, evidently). Please check back for details! Voting continues through July 3!

The deadline to submit the 3-minute audition video is tonight at 11:59 pm PST, so I’ve been hard at work on my video for the past few days. The work came to a swelling crescendo yesterday and today, because, you know, that’s how composers roll. Without deadlines, we’d never get out of bed! πŸ˜‰

I panicked around 8 pm EST when I got turned around briefly and worried that the deadline was coming up at 9, because of the 3-hour time difference between here and the West Coast. Fortunately, I was on the phone with a friend who un-discombobulated me (and if he hadn’t, McDoc would have!).

I have to tell you, I infinitely prefer editing audio to editing video; both can be tedious and time-consuming, but video really takes the cake! It’s probably mostly due to my limited experience with it, and that will likely change from now on!

The concept of beakers and labs reminded me of this classic Thomas Dolby video. Enjoy!

Thomas Dolby – She Blinded Me With Science


One Twisted Instrument!

Music nerd Andy filed a request recently for a Music Nerd Merit Badge having to do with brass instruments. He didn’t specify which one, and in keeping with my characteristic goofiness, I chose the Wagner Tuba. I went looking for pictures of the instrument to use as a model, and I found a real purty one on the website of a German instrument maker:


It was the largest picture I could find, which helped me see the details clearly. I set about copying it, and got rather fascinated by the twists and turns of its tubing:


I used a variety of pretty colors for the different sections to help me keep them sorted out, and then I planned to turn them into gold (er, brass, I mean!) when I was all done.

I decided I’d better look at some pictures of players actually holding the instrument, to see how that worked. I found plenty of examples. Here’s a single player:


And here’s a quartet of them:


Great, right? Except for one thing… It may seem like a minor detail, but the mouthpiece is on the opposite side compared to the model I was working from! Ack!

I looked at as many pictures of people playing the instrument as I could find, and they all had the same arrangement, which differed in a small but very important way from my developing masterpiece. (Musicians can be pretty fussy about these things!)

So if there’s anyone out there who plays this consarned thing, or knows anything about it — can you hip me, humble pianist/non-brass aficionado that I am? What gives? Is there no standardization to the thing? Are there no rules? What’s next, dogs and cats living together?!

But most importantly… do I have to scrap my backwards drawing and start all over! πŸ˜₯


It Gets You Every Time!

RockportHarborsunsetWhen McDoc and I were on vacation recently, we were taking a leisurely walk at the end of the day, and had the good fortune to be out at just the right time to watch a beautiful sunset, with its astonishing palette reds and pinks and oranges stretching across the horizon before giving way to purple twilight. The thought occurred to me, and I said it to McDoc, that even though the sun sets every day, watching it never gets old; in fact, it can still take your breath away no matter how many times you’ve seen it before.

I think beautiful music has much the same effect.

Two days ago, I wrote a post about the “Summer Sings” being presented by Masterworks Chorale, a chorus McDoc and I sing with. The second event of the series took place last night, featurng the Requiem by Gabriel Fauré. I’m quite familiar with this piece; I played the organ for a performance of it at my old church in San Diego; I conducted two movements of it with a community college chorus; and I’ve listened to it umpteen times, because McDoc plays the recording frequently (we have a whole Requiem playlist on heavy rotation, which may sound morbid, but it isn’t, really!). I’m basically sick and tired of it, to be perfectly honest! I still think it’s a beautiful piece, of course, but I thought I had become immune to it due to such frequent exposure. πŸ˜‰

So there I was, minding my own business, singing along during the rehearsal portion of the evening. I was feeling pretty smug about how well I remembered the alto part, and what I didn’t remember, I was sight-reading like a fiend! Woo hoo!

Then we got to the last movement, “In Paradisum.” The altos don’t do much in this movement, which starts with a long, soaring melody for the soprano section. Here’s the Latin text and English translation:

In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere Γ¦ternam habeas requiem.

May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, the poor man, may you have eternal rest.

I was digging on that soprano line, just appreciating the beauty of the music, to which I was perhaps not so immune after all! Then as I read the words, I felt a lump in my throat, and out of the blue, I started thinking about VirgoMom; this coming August, it’ll be 10 years since she passed away. By the time they got to “et cum Lazaro, I was toast. It was darn near impossible for me to come in on that last “requiem,” and the fact that the alto line at that point is set to the tune of “Three Blind Mice,” as I had frequently reminded my college chorus students, didn’t help one bit! πŸ˜‰

What about you? What work of art never fails to move you, no matter how accustomed to it you think you are?

“In Paradisum” from Requiem by FaurΓ©
Note: the audio is a little glitchy on this video, but I liked the performance.


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