Category Archives: Connectedness

Community

I received a nice pingback on a recent post today on the Mind Over Music blog by Justin Yanowicz and Judy Crook. Having been in touch with Nina Krauss, the director of the work mentioned on my original post, and discovering that we will both be attending The Neurosciences and Music conference in June, today’s unexpected tie-in was further proof of the ease with which the internet can bring together those with a shared interest, connecting and amplifying learning.

What I liked in particular was their advice to delay cognitive ageing: “Speak several languages daily and keep playing your instrument.” Easier said than done or, as I like to say when pupils suggest insurmountability, “difficult, but not impossible.”

Gateshead Granny Cloud

I always felt that Martyn Lewis was unfairly pilloried in 1993 for opining that there should be more good news on the news. Is news meant to be a reflection of life, or merely a litany of human failing?

I caught an interesting story (in the car, as always) on Radio 4’s new technologies programme, Click On yesterday which typified, for me, the type of under-reported philanthropic instinct to which I suspect Lewis was referring. Chasing the idea today, I found the following video on YouTube which explains the story. You also get to see what must be a unique three-word sentence: Gateshead Granny Cloud:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/IXxYgpQhsrU?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The originator of the idea, Sugata Mitra, explains a little more fully here on TED:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dk60sYrU2RU?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

 

A long reach

Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius was born in 1865 – the same year as George V (father of the stammering heir, currently being played by Colin Firth in a cinema near you).  In that same year, the American Civil War raged and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  These two pieces of music were premièred in the year of his Sibelius’ death.  Quite a reach.[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/DuEw-yBX6Mk?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /][kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/tpzV_0l5ILI?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

ngram

What better way to relax before a concert (Musselburgh Grammar New Year Concert – a neologism brought upon us by adverse weather at Christmas) than messing about with words. Driving home from school, I heard an article on Radio 4’s Open Book about Google’s Ngram software. Basically, this allows you to chart the popularity of a word between 1800 and now in books – approx 15 million of them.

It’s interesting to discover how words grow legs of their own, independent of their original coinage. For a bit of fun, try to predict (before clicking) which of the following words is the only one to enjoy a rise in popularity in last 200 years: heaven, hell, limbo, purgatory.

Can it be used to spot societal trends? Naomi Alderman pointed out, during the programme, the decline of “I must” compared to the rise of “I want.” Chart, though, the counter-intuitive progress of the word celebrity.

I wonder if one day an equivalent will appear for monitoring historical trends in music. What do you think the unit should be? Note? Chord? Voicing? And the method of input?

The use of the word music is interesting. It rose during WW2, peaking sharply around the late 1950s before falling sharply.

p.s. I suspect that neologism is not really a suitable term for a phrase, as opposed to a word. What should one use?

p.p.s I also realise that falling sharply is a musical contradiction – he said, voice rising flatly

Virtual Choir

Many thanks to Ewan McIntosh for flagging this up – Eric Whitacre‘s Virtual Choir singing Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold)  – a beautiful blend of music and technology:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/D7o7BrlbaDs?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


The idea and its history is explained here:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/zyLX2cke-Lw?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

I found the following translation of the text of Lux Aurumque here:

Lux

Calida gravisque

Pura velut aurum

Et canunt angeli

Molliter modo natum

Light

Warm and heavy

As pure gold

And the angels sing softly

To the newborn babe

The following related videos might also be of interest:

Singing instruction (although this is for another work – Sleep):[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dWCTKnbqE6s?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


Recording instruction:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/IrQRVI8y5j8?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


Conducting track (instruction first and then real time conducting kicks in at 5:18)[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/uh1c2xWVWiA?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Score of Lux Aurumque (moves along with music)[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/aLBKyLT-j4w?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Ideas are one thing and what happens another (John Cage 1912-92)

I must be getting younger and here’s what draws me to this unlikely conclusion. Have you ever had the experience where, relating an event and estimating its vintage, you discover that it took place, say, eleven years ago and not five? Does the tempo of life’s passing seem to hit home at such moments? Well, this morning I had the opposite experience. I heard that today marks the five-year anniversary of the official launch of YouTube – the Beta version having emerged some seven months earlier. I couldn’t believe it! Youtube – the third most visited website, after Google and Facebook – seems to have been part of my life for longer than I can remember. I can recall who first told me about Google and Facebook, but I don’t recall being led to YouTube – it just seemed always to be there.

What better way to mark this occasion than to stumble upon (if our networked world still permits such electronic happenstance) a video of the recording of a version of John Cage‘s 4′ 33′ by Cage Against The Machine (CATM). I’ll let The Guardian explain the provenance.

This much misunderstood and maligned piece is thought to be about silence – and only that. However, Cage’s intention was to allow listeners the time and space to notice and enjoy life’s everyday sounds, which we often take for granted, undervalue and ignore.

This film has some nice touches: introductory remarks to the musicians; performances phoned in by artists not available on the day of recording (4:00 into film); a variety of responses to the situation – some having fun, others perhaps a little self-conscious and some looking reflective/reverential. I’m no authority, but I suspect that John Cage would have been happy at recent events and would have smiled at those in the film, smiling and swaying, arm in arm and in time.[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/GYedTIMAf7E?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

p.s. Re the title of this post – have a look at the story of CATM (the text on grey background) here.

What are conductors for?

What are conductors for? This is a question often asked by those outside the world of music – and sometimes by those in it.

In the following three videos, Semyon Bychkov explains very articulately the collaborative and personal business of preparing for performance. There are some very interesting examples of his forensic research and some interesting points about a subject dear to my heart – the connections between music and language.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ojyfjs7vU8E?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/2jIv6kqX7SE?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ev3YCPO45vM?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

If I’m entirely honest, I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Bychkov until this morning when I heard him in a fascinating interview with Tom Service on approaching the music of Wagner – and the associated difficulties. A sucker for a nicely turned phrase, I noticed his gift for aphorism e.g. “in the end, the beauty of life is infinitely greater than the weaknesses of those who go through it.”

You can hear that interview here.

Instrumental Tuition in Aberdeen in danger

Although this is a grim and worrying situation, it is encouraging to read that pupils are taking action. In addition to the threat to their learning, it is interesting to see social consequences highlighted by one pupil:

“The bands, choirs and orchestras we attend are a big part of our social life and are where we meet our friends from different schools across the city.”

Unsurprisingly, the students are using a social networking site to organise.

A petition – which articulately outlines many the extra-music benefits of instrumental tuition –  can be found here.