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Mother Nature-approved

Here we see the wild treble clef growing in its natural environment.


The difficult part

Your viola joke is below, but first, a quick note: I recently discovered that Gmail has been randomly sticking some of my AB mail in the spam filter. If you’ve emailed me at any point and not received a reply, please do so again! I’m on the alert.

Q. What’s a good way to narrow down the field during viola auditions? Continue reading

I just want you to be prepared

Hey, remember a month or two ago how I picked out some Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts that tickled my particular fancy? Let’s do the same thing for Strathmore, which offers such a dizzying array of concerts over the course of the season that I’m sure attempting to process it all can be daunting. Never fear – I’ve picked out all the classical concerts that have so far been announced, so you’ll know what not to miss in advance. You’re quite welcome.

  • Duo Amaral, Oct 12 – Classical guitar featuring composers like Rodrigo and Albeniz.
  • Guido’s Ear, Oct 18 – Pre- and early Baroque – think Monteverdi, Zanetti, Merula.
  • Dali Quartet, Oct 28 – Spice things up with some Latin American chamber music.
  • Jennifer Koh’s Bach and Beyond, Part 1 (Nov 14) and Part 2 (Feb 28) – Bach violin partitas and sonatas mixed with newer works influenced by the great composer.
  • George Li, Jan 12 – A prodigal pianist, playing Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin.
  • China National Symphony, Feb 1 – A bunch of new works by Chinese composers plus BEETHOVEN’S SEVENTH SYMPHONY.
  • Mattias Jacobsson, Mar 21 – The classical guitarist plays the Bach Lute Suites.
  • Kristin Lee, April 4 – Gershwin’s Three Preludes on the violin! Fun!
  • Cameron Carpenter, April 12 – Well. I dare say I’ll never look at the organ quite the same way again.
  • Maurizio Pollini, April 14 – As if I needed to introduce this one. Not sure what he’s playing, but my money’s on some Chopin.
  • Marian Anderson String Quartet, April 25 – Prize-winning and Dvorak-playing. Nice.
  • Mak Grgic, May 9 – Another classical guitarist, this one has put together a bunch of neato transcriptions of works written by Ravel, Debussy, Brahms, and more, plus traditional guitar pieces.

So there you have it – all the straight-up classical music programs in the Strathmore season. SO FAR. Don’t worry; I’ll keep you apprised of these and other concerts as the year goes by. Good heavens, is it almost autumn already?

Music: It’s all in your head

Hell, I’ll admit it – I’m a denizen of Cracked.com. I like sarcastic humor in list form. Not that this has any real affect on you and your life, but they published an article the other day with a title that clearly required my further investigation: “The 5 Ways Music Can Mess With the Human Brain.”

According to the article, these ways are:

  1. “It changes your ability to perceive time” – In some situations, such as working out or shopping, music can make the time go faster. But if you’re using music to help you study, you might want to rethink that – it may divide your attention and actually make time slow down.
  2. “It taps into primal fear” – This one mostly has to do with movie soundtracks, specifically horror movies. We’ve talked about that before (as has our de facto mascot Mr. Izzard), but the basic idea is that unsettling tones amp up your level of anxiety (devil’s triad, anyone?).
  3. “It makes you stronger” – I thought this was interesting – people who perform feats of strength, like holding heaving objects or distance running, can do it for a longer period of time when listening to music. Anyone who ever forgot their iPod for their daily workout could probably tell you that, but music may also limit feelings of pain.
  4. “It changes your drinking habits” – Wait, what? “What they play in the bar doesn’t just affect how much you drink, but what you drink.” Here’s a good example: people are more inclined to purchase expensive wine if classical music is playing (which is why my idea for a classical dive bar is such a good idea). The music playing can even inform how you describe the drink you have.
  5. “It makes you a better communicator” – More points to musicians! Studying music allows you to: better understand the emotions of others, keys you into subtle changes in vocal tone, and improves your focus, all of which improve your social skills.

So there you have it! Music generally does cool stuff. Also, classical music makes you classy. Dom Perignon, anyone?

That’s right, boys, hug it out

Nothing exorcizes personal demons like a good classical rap battle.

Yo Amadeus, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish…

I’m frankly unconcerned as to the results of this one – we already know how Kanye feels about Beethoven.

Social commentary on our dependence on technology

Q. How do you get a violist to play A flat? Continue reading

Let’s take a look at what you could win!

Yet another week passes with no concert in sight, not even a smattering at Strathmore. Truly dead space, my friends. But take heart – even now a few brave souls reach their hands out across the void to offer you musical stuff.

  • First up, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra would like you to know that if you become a BSO Ambassador, you could win prizes. It’s actually less intensive than some other “ambassador” programs I’ve seen floating around – all you have to do is share news and information on your social media networks. They’ll periodically send you updates, you post it, done. The prize part has to do with how many times you post, how many people click to the BSO’s site, etc. etc. Worth checking out if you’re a BSO fan.
  • Speaking of the BSO, Rusty Musicians is back! For those of you not aware of the program, the BSO offers amateur musicians – specifically targeting those who haven’t played in years – the opportunity to come rehearse with the BSO. Yes, the actual professional musicians – neat! I say “rehearse” and not “perform,” however, because as far as I can tell they’ve eliminated the actual performances of past years. All the same, it’s a great excuse to bust out your high school trumpet if it’s been gathering dust since commencement; vocalists may apply as well. There are two slots on November 13 only, so I’d act fast if you’re interested.
  • Are you a fan of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion? (I know I am!) Do you sing? Well then why not audition to sing a duet with Keillor on the October 20 show? All genres accepted, and your odds are actually not so bad as all that – five or six finalists will be chosen to perform. Deadline to submit your audition is September 21, so get cracking!

Mistaken identity, or none at all

I have a friend whose mother is convinced that all string instruments are guitars. My friend is multi-talented and has been known to bust out a violin, a cello, and even on rare occasions a viola, but no matter what the instrument, her mom says “Are you going to practice your guitar now?”

And about those violas (easy, killer – I’m going to lay on some rare sympathy). How many times have you heard a violist mention their instrument only to have someone inquire as to what, exactly, a viola is? What’s the difference, anyway? And the euphonium – blank stares all around, amirite? And the poor flugelhorn – that one just makes people giggle (hee; flooooogelhorn).

My point is that while everyone nods sagely for the proud clarinetist, the contrabassoonist is constantly explaining himself, and that’s kind of silly for an orchestral staple, don’t you think? There are still a bunch of symphonic pockets that are perfectly normal to those that inhabit the world but have little or no presence outside of it. Isn’t that weird? Have you ever played an instrument people didn’t recognize? Did it make you die a little inside every time, or did you cheerfully educate the populace, one at a time?

P.S. This is the first time I’ve ever given a post the tag “viola” without following it with “joke.”

Yo, professor!

You know what doesn’t get nearly enough attention? The ‘cor-deen.