This clip, a little segment of the movie A Late Quartet that explains the importance of each individual instrument in a string quartet, is great and vaguely philosophical and stabs at the heart of truth and all that good stuff. But I still can’t shake the urge to apologize for being unable to find anything where Christopher Walken talks about Beethoven.
If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.
I DEMAND TICKETS TO EVERYTHING.
If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.
My grandmother doesn’t see very well, and as such one of her favorite pastimes when we’re together is to request that I look things up one my iPhone. During my visits we’ll watch old movies, and she’ll say “Look up when this person died” or “I wonder if he was ever in anything else; look that up.” So I fire up the browser app, head over to Wikipedia, and find out.
Our most recent sojourn was through The Sound of Music, and as the first nuns appeared I remembered that Marni Nixon got some actual screen time in the film, as Sister Sophia. You know about Marni Nixon, right? She was the ghost singer to the stars, working for Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, and Marilyn Monroe, among others.
Curious about her current whereabouts I looked her up of my own accord, and was fascinated to discover that she recorded vocals for such great composers as Schoenberg, Webern, Copland, and Bernstein. I had no idea! Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to locate any real footage of these performances, but I did find this fascinating interview, wherein she talks about how she just dubbed as a means of paying for her singing classes, and more. Find out what it was like for classically trained singer back in the day, where if they found it you dubbed, you were finished!
Oh, hey! Do you watch Downton Abbey? I do! Is your favorite character Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess? Mine is! And I recently convinced my mother to watch it too, the end result being that she is now just as obsessed with the show and loves Maggie Smith just as much as I do.
As such, it took FAR too long for it to occur to me to share with her the trailer for Quartet, a Maggie Smith movie wherein she plays a former opera singer who goes to live in a retirement home specifically for musicians. It came out way back in January, but as my mom discovered it still playing in one of our area independent theaters, I figured it might not be too late to show it to you, too.
Has anyone seen it? What did you think?
Also – Billy Connolly! Remember this?
In case you didn’t catch it, the plot here is about an evil piano teacher who imprisons non-piano-playing musicians and kidnaps boys to play his enormous piano. And this is the greatest part of the greatest thing that ever happened.
Although I’m pissed that my childhood piano lessons never included so much as a whiff of choreographed air piano battle instruction. How will I ever defend myself now?
Hey, you guys ever notice the “like this post” button at the bottom of my updates? Well, believe it or not, occasionally people click on it! And the other day I received just such an approval from an intriguing young man and fellow blogger named Derek Kortepeter who, in his profile, claimed to be an ethnomusicologist. I perked right up at that and immediately pounced, demanding an interview which he graciously consented to give. Read on as we attempt to answer the question, “What do you even DO with ethnomusicology?”
JENN GERMAN: So, first question – and please answer honestly, because this is VERY IMPORTANT. Beethoven or Mozart?
DEREK KORTEPETER: Beethoven, as a composer his melodies have impacted me greatly.
JG: That is the correct answer, Mr. Kortepeter. We shall do well here.
JG: Now, when I first proposed this interview, I mentioned something about my friend who is studying musicology at Peabody, and how all the performance majors blink at her and say, “What do you even DO?” Funny story – I posted to the AB Facebook page with “What would you ask an ethnomusicologist?” and the very first response I received was “What the heck do you do with that degree?”
DK: Haha, you know, you can do A LOT with it. At my school at the undergraduate level, you can choose either a research emphasis (leading in later years to fieldwork where you interact with various cultures and record their music and eventually publish your findings), a performance emphasis (many individuals who have studied at UCLA or teach at UCLA have very prolific performance careers), or composition (many professors have double or triple careers, not only being scholars professionally but also respected composer).
Ethnomusicology is a very unique field, some institutions classify it in the anthropology sections, whereas others put it in a more musical context. Much can be done with it; for instance, my old professor and mentor Dr. Wanda Bryant was the ethnomusicology consultant for James Horner when he composed the score for Avatar. She brought in audio samples of all different cultures, namely minority cultures, to help create the unique score for that film. I know of many people who have worked with Grammy winners, Academy Award winning films, etc., it is a very unique and diverse field.
JG: Ah! As much as I didn’t like Avatar (issues with the plot, not the music), I must say that’s a pretty darn nifty application. I bet it could apply to a lot film scores that need to evoke a specific period and/or setting. Now what exactly do YOU do with it?
DK: I am a composer, and as a composer I want to know at the deepest possible level all music that exists in this world. I chose UCLA over schools like UC Berkeley because as a composer, I am allowed to move in and out of various cultures with ease. I tend to be very critical of conservatories who teach only western classical music, as I feel that, especially for composition students, creativity is stifled. Especially in this postmodern 21st Century era, composers are now more than ever required to understand how to properly write music from cultures different than their own. You must write with knowledge, as Hollywood especially has been guilty of creating stereotypical, inaccurate portrayals of global music (such as the overuse of the Hijaz scale when a storyline is based around the Middle East and inaccurate drum beats and melodies for American Indian music, which is a personal issue for me as a man that is part Cherokee Indian).
JG: Is there a particular culture whose musical traditions you find yourself gravitating toward in your music?
DK: Hmmm, good question, I have influences ranging from Philip Glass and Hans Zimmer to the Thievery Corporation, but if we are talking specific cultures I would say three: Chinese, Japanese, and Indonesian. There are others, but especially Chinese and Japanese as I find great musical depth in their ideas.
JG: Are those three your favorites, necessarily? For study?
DK: Um, not my only favorites. I love rock music – it is in my blood as a rock guitarist – so that is a huge part of my scholastic life as well (I actually wrote a paper on rock and metal music in the Arab world). I’m also interested in music theory (western and global), sociology of music, music and politics, electronic music etc. Also musical minimalism.
JG: So sort of American ethnomusicology too?
DK: Yeah, the philosophy of my school is that ethnomusicology is the world, so that means EVERY part of the world, not necessarily an East/West distinction which infers an Us vs. Them mentality. Ethnomusicology used to be very eurocentric, but it has come very far since then to be a very relative and open school of thought. Discussion is encouraged.
JG: What sorts of fusion have you encountered? Or has the blend not come so far yet?
DK: That’s a complex question because it depends on the situation you refer to. You see East meeting West in various compositions of students in the division, as well as a very diverse curriculum that looks to really stretch the music perspective of the student. The ensembles at the school are very purist, but that is only because they desire to teach the correct method of playing. Looking on a global scale there have been strides in East/West music. Philip Glass wrote the score to Martin Scorcese’s Kundun with a western orchestra, Tibetan gongs and horns, and an overall theoretical perspective that draws on Tibetan musical (namely from Tibetan Buddhist rituals). Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project consists of all different instruments, from the Pipa of China to the Santur of Persian culture. There are signs of cultural fusion everywhere, but as I’ve spoken about it on my blog, I believe music education has a long way to go before true cultural inclusion is complete.
JG: Is the curiosity about the “other” side mutual? Are there Tibetans holding their gongs while peering at Western scores and scratching their heads?
DK: I think so; in various cultures there has been integration of western styles. In Japan there is a group called Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra that is just what the name implies, it is a Japanese Ska band. You see in Indonesia the punk rock band Lolot, you see in Iraq (now in New York City) the metal band Acrassicauda. There is curiosity from both sides, I think. In the information age and with increased globalization I think this was inevitable.
JG: Here’s a submitted question I found interesting: do you think musical taste can be passed genetically?
DK: Hmmmm, I’m not sure if it is a question of genetics (i.e. chromosome-inherited traits) as opposed to environment. Children are exposed at a very young age to certain types of music, but that can change due to a number of factors, peers, the desire to be counter-cultural, etc. I know that my taste in music can in some ways be traced to my mom. Growing up she was playing the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen etc., so naturally later I am a huge fan of these bands.
JG: Oh, sure, but there are also kids who come to hate the music their parents “force” on them. You think that has anything to do with musical taste, or is it all in the nature to rebel – or not?
DK: Probably both, you know? Maybe the desire to listen to heavy metal as a counter-cultural statement is merely fulfilling a psychological trait of rebellion.
JG: I hear ya. Anything else you’d like to tell the future ethnomusicologists of America?
DK: If you want to do this, people may not understand it. Believe in your career, though – you really do not know what may happen. I truly believe this field is the field of the future, so why not write the future yourself?
JG: Nicely put. And where does one find your ethnomusicology blog?
JG: Good times. Well, thank you very much!
DK: Hey thanks for entertaining my ideas! You are very welcome.
Thanks so much, Derek! I think we single-handedly advanced the field of ethnomusicology tenfold, don’t you? And Ain’t Baroccos, you can look forward to another interview with the intrepid Stephen P. Brown coming soon! Know anyone else you think deserves to come under my steely journalistic gaze? Let me know!
Speaking of current contender Mr. Gershwin, remember that epically awesome post about the “Rhapsody in Blue” segment of Fantasia 2000 I gifted to the world like two years ago? Of course you do; it was epically awesome. And now: here’s what it would look like as a live action sequence with the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat.
Music tames the savage beast, so it’s perfect for those inconvenient moments when you realize that the amalgam of human parts you brought to life with electricity during your lunch break has escaped and is out there terrorizing the townsfolk and taking hot soup to the lap. The violin makes a good recon tool; here’s a handy tutorial for its most efficient use. Oh, and also,
Last week I had this awesome idea for today’s video, which of course means now I forget what it was. So in the meantime, here’s one of my favorite scenes from Amadeus. I mean, besides the bit where Mozart kicks the bucket.