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Q. What is a burning violin good for?
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Alrighty, killer bees, this week’s BSO concert is simply but accurately entitled “Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.” Let me stop you right there – I played that concerto for my private lessons once, back in the dark ages when I was still laboring over the violin, and I remain a little scarred.

So let’s skip to the other bits. We have Dvorak’s “From the New World” Symphony No. 9 (listen to the opening of the fourth movement and tell me John Williams didn’t straight up gank that for Jaws). And then we have a piece by John Adams called Dr. Atomic Symphony. I mean, of course we do.

There don’t appear to be any program notes available, but I felt that a title like Dr. Atomic warrants further research, so I went ahead and hit Wikipedia like a good child of the 21st century. The symphony is evidently a condensed version of Adams’ Dr. Atomic opera, which covers the time a month out from the testing of the atomic bomb in 1945 up to the moment just before the bomb is dropped (I assume in the test, not on Hiroshima). Makes sense to me!

The symphony was initially written in four movements spanning 45 minutes, but Adams’ later rewrote it into three movements clocking in at 25 minutes. My guess is that the BSO is playing the 25 minute version, but I could be wrong. If you want to find out for sure, there’s a Thursday, September 30 concert at 8 pm at Strathmore, a Saturday, October 2 concert at 8 pm at the Meyerhoff, and then another Meyerhoff concert at 3 pm on Sunday, October 3. If I said “It’ll be explosive!”, would you hate me?

Updated to add: I forgot to mention that the soloist will be Stefan Jackiw. I guess he’ll never be granting me an interview.


In which it is proven that one can be simultaneously the best and the worst

Hey, remember my post on Wii Music? Well, this is what that sucker can do!

Jealous? Says someone in the comments, “In other words they’re´╗┐ the best orchestra ever; they can fully follow the conducting.” Chilling thought, eh, conductors?

You know how it is with cats and strings

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The viola joke as self-parody

I promised you a special viola joke, and I’m confident I shall now deliver — this one’s in motion!

Last week I received a tweet from a reader who goes by the Twitter handle “kickassical.” It read simply, “Has @aintbaroque seen this?” and then listed a short link. I clicked on it and was redirected to the YouTube page of this video:

Violists! Is there anything they can do?

(Incidentally, that’s Yuri Bashmet, famed concert violist. I know! There are professional viola soloists! What a world.)

I’d say that’s worth an Ain’t Baroque Well Played! Medal of Violar, wouldn’t you? Mr. Kickassical, please let me know with what name you want it inscribed, and by “inscribed” I mean “listed on the Medal of Violar page.”

Listening with your skin

DUDE. Check out this article from Fast Company. Right now! Go on, I’ll wait.

Okay, in case you cheated, here’s the gist:

Most of us assume deaf people can’t register sound, let alone enjoy Rachmaninoff. Wrong. A conceptual device from German designer Frederik Podzuweit taps into the deaf’s ability to feel music.

Music for Deaf People is a collar that converts auditory input into vibrations, triggering the same sound-processing brain regions in those with full hearing. So instead of listening through your ears, you effectively listen through your skin. The collar has a special membrane substance, which responds to electricity, dispatching the vibrations of whatever you’re playing – be it Sinatra or Sepultura – to your neck, shoulders, and collarbone.

Everyone has that iconic image of Beethoven with his four legless pianos, plumb on the floor so that he could sit in front of them and feel the vibrations as he played. What do you think that collar would have done for him? Tripled his output? I mean, it’s not like he could have possibly improved, but composing might have been easier. Then again, given that so much of Beethoven is fueled by the sturm und drang of his setbacks, would his music have been the same?

Does this even really count as listening to music? Or is it too far removed? Which is not to say that it wouldn’t be a perfectly legitimate way for a deaf person to enjoy music, but it could require its own designation. Composers might even go so far as to create music designed specifically for electrical vibrations, spawning a brand new genre: felt music. Thoughts?

Also, my mother never enjoys Rachmaninoff, and she can hear just fine. ZING!

Doing it badly

I got into my car this morning on my way to work, and what was on the radio the moment it started? Why, Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite! I LOVE St. Paul’s Suite! I played it my freshman year of high school, the really awesome year where we had like five people in the orchestra and I WAS the first violin section. I stayed in my car three extra minutes after pulling into a parking space at work to hear the end of the fourth movement (no worries; I was early).

This evening I had dinner with my grandmother, and as I started my car for that trip I was regaled with the final few bars of the “Jupiter” movement from Holst’s The Planets. And I said to myself, what, is it Holst’s birthday or something? The deejay confirmed. So as a means of commemorating this very special day, being as it is the day of possibly my very favorite British composer, I present to you: a quote by the man himself, on amateur musicianship.

“If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing badly.”

Amen, brother.

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahler, dahling

Hey there faithful readers! Sorry this is going up so late – been a bit of a hectic work day. I’m sneaking this in while I wait for one of the other online producers to proof some donation forms for me. Good times, no?

We’re baaaaack! The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra 2010-2011 season begins officially this weekend, starting with a concert featuring the season’s theme, Gustav Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahler Mahler. (But say it the first way; it’s more fun.) On Friday, September 24 at 8 pm at the Meyerhoff and Saturday, September 25 at 8 pm at Strathmore you can enjoy Ma(aaaaaaaa)hler’s seventh symphony, along with a Bach suite that Ma(aaaaaaaaaaa)hler arranged (okay, I’ll stop now) which includes the famed “Air on a G String.”

No program notes, but there is a webumentary. Here, let Marin Alsop tell you all about it.

I attended the opening gala performance, and it was bloody amazing. You should go to at least one BSO concert this season. Promise?

Gotta start ’em early

At the BSO season opening Gala concert, the music was interspersed with video clips on the BSO OrchKids program, wherein BSO musicians teach children at a local Baltimore school to play musical instruments. I figured this might be a good time to highlight that work with a brief video (if you’re disappointed that this week’s video isn’t rife with hilarity, I have a very special viola joke for Thursday that should right your universe again).

Learn more about OrchKids here.


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