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Good thing it wasn’t a grand

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He ain’t heavy, he’s my violist

Q. What’s the difference between a fourteen inch pizza and a violist?

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Luck o’ the flautist

I toyed with the idea of trying to somehow connect Flogging Molly to classical music (they have violins, okay? I might’ve stretched it if I tried!). But I decided instead to rock out with Sir James Galway to honor St. Paddy’s Day. And Sesame Street, of course, being as it is my cultural touchstone. And a pool toy. Enjoy.

Straight from the horse’s mouth, if the horse can compose

I made that post on Monday about the “Circus Maximus” concert and how I didn’t know anything about David T. Little’s piece Screamer (in my head, the T is for “Tiberius”). Well, darned if the man himself didn’t contact me with all sorts of interesting information. He also apologizes for his lack of a Wikipedia page (maybe someone can build him one?) and offers instead his own personal web site, davidtlittle.com.

Even if you’re not coming to the concert, I recommend you read the below, reproduced faithfully as it was sent to me. Bet you didn’t know Sousa can be used to distract from blood and death!

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Music, a manipulative minx

Music creates a mood. If ever a statement deserved a ’90’s chorus of “Duh!”, that’s the one. But I’ve been thinking of it in the light of manipulation, because:

I was hanging with my dear friend Elizabeth, and we got into a conversation with her mother about our mutual tendency to roll our eyes at blatantly Emotional Scenes – that is to say, scenes where you can feel the movie hitting you over the head with the fact that This Is A Tragic Scene And You Should Be Sad (see the first scene of Star Trek), or conversely, This Is A Romantic Scene And These People Are In Love (Avatar, you were pretty, but I can’t get behind any movie that contains the line “I fell in love with the forest… the people… with you.” Also you are a sack of cliches, but lucky for you that’s not salient right now.)

Anyway, my point is, during our discourse Elizabeth’s mother mentioned how¬† “you hear the music swell and you know what’s coming.” Indeed! Music creates the context for the scene and informs you of what to expect.

Again: duh. But I came to think about it again this weekend, while playing a video game. Okay, first of all, whoever created Dragon Age: Origins: THANK YOU. Did you make it with me in mind? I really think you did. After all, who else would be thrilled by a minimum of combat and a maximum of dialogue choices and cut scenes?

Of course, it’s the combat, however sparse, to which I now refer: whenever an enemy approaches, my character hunkers down as ominous music is played. It’s simple and short and just a bit of dissonance in a minor key. The purpose of the music is wholly and solely to inform me that I am about to engage in battle. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now, I know movie scores and even video game scores, especially their suite forms, are often praised and played in their own rights. I’m not talking about those right now. I’m talking the little snippets meant only to rile emotion and let you know what’s coming up.


  1. Does such music, with no purpose other than to contextualize and inform, have further value?
  2. Do composers attempt to instill it with said value, or are they tossing something off in the proper key with the proper chord that they know will work?

I leave it open to the forum. What do you think? (Bonus points if you’re a composer of such music, and if so, may I have an interview please?)

Embrace the ides of March

Important! I’m extending the raffle deadline to Tuesday (tomorrow) at noon with recipients to be informed of their luck by 4 pm. I want to make sure everyone who filled out the survey gets the chance, so make sure you send me an email with the subject “Circus Maximus” and your name to bsointern@bsoatstrathmore.org. Each winner will get 2 tickets to the March 18 Strathmore performance. Enter now!

This week’s concert is, as I already mentioned, entitled “Circus Maximus,” with performances at Strathmore on March 18 and at the Meyerhoff on March 19, 20, and 21. It includes Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf (see the below post) with narration by Scott Simon of NPR or, on the 21st, Rheda Becker.

There are two other pieces on the bill, both somewhat obscure, at least from where I’m standing. There are no program notes, so I’m not sure what to tell you about David Little’s Screamer (where is your Wikipedia page, sir?), except that the brochure describes it as “[imagining] a circus very nearly out of control.”

I would be just as clueless on John Corigliano‘s Circus Maximus if not for the helpful words of one of my Twitter followers: “It was more ‘event’ than music I would listen to over and over. Much like sports, better live than ‘on TV.'” Well, you heard the man. Better live than on TV. So you should buy tickets, and/or enter the raffle.

He was also kind enough to send me this link to an article from a music publisher wherein Corigliano himself describes the piece and his impetus and thought process. Don’t miss the illumination. Thanks very much, Mr. Carney Dr. Carney! (Er, not Jonathan Carney. I thought I should clear that one up proactively.)

Sterling and the Wolf

I believe I have previously noted my sincere love for Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and I may have linked to this video before (although if so I can’t find it). But I definitely haven’t posted it, and as such it’s fair game, yes? Therefore in honor of this week’s BSO concert, which includes the score in the program, here’s the 1946 Disney version of Peter and the Wolf. It’s not entirely accurate – in true Bowdlerized fashion, the duck lives, for example – but it’s good, it doesn’t veer very far, and it’s narrated by Winnie the Pooh. Win!

Favorite part: “Peter, don’t just stand that way! And don’t stand that way either.” Although the hunters are also cracking me up in a big way (they’re also my favorite part of the score, in case you were interested). Someone needs to pull me a screenshot of them for my desktop picture.

In the key of Fred sharp

I wonder what the hand sign for Fred would look like?

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Viola? I hardly know her!

Q. What do you call a person who plays the viola?

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Cheap as free!

Let it not be said I am not a girl of my word: I said if you did the poll I would come up with some tickets, and by God I have! I have 10 sets of tickets (two per person, in other words) to give away to next Thursday’s Circus Maximus BSO concert at Strathmore at 8 pm (that’s March 18, in case you weren’t sure). In the interest of fairness and expediency, I’m going with a simple raffle. Just send me an email with the header “Circus Maximus Tickets” and your name in the body to bsointern@bsoatstrathmore.org by Monday, March 15. Winners will be contacted on Tuesday morning.

Now, there is no way for me to know for certain whether all entrants did in fact respond to the poll, so we’re working via the honor system here. So before you enter, fill it out, please? And don’t forget the addendum. It’s just not fair otherwise, and I hear you’re the fairest in all the land.

Oh, if you’re more toward the Baltimore end of the metropolitan area and you’re thinking “Strathmore’s too far!!!!” and then bursting into tears, don’t be such a drip. 100 to 95 to 495 and then like two stoplights and you’re there. You seriously can’t screw it up, and I know this to be true because I’m practically a professional at getting lost and I got it right first try. So there!