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Okay, not really. But here's the thing.

I get daily emails from the Mechanical Music Digest, which consist of the day's postings to a diverse group of hobbyists. Their delight is in player pianos, pianolas, band organs, violinolas, music boxes, and even automata. Every so often (and getting oftener) I read about another beloved member of the community who has passed on or gotten too old to keep doing the work, and the collection he or she (usually he) spent years putting together and keeping in order is looking for a home. More often, many homes, as different things go in different directions, possibly including the trash.

As they age out, they wonder where the next generation of people who appreciate this exacting craft will come from. Who will repair the machines? Who will keep the rolls rolling? Their kids, oftentimes, have bemused tolerance for their parents, but no intention of carrying on after them. The faces they see are getting older.

Now, I look around and see young people who love clockwork and gears and steel and brass and polished wood and leather cases, who are interested in the obscure and the outdated and the ingenious. Yes, steampunks and makers. Why wouldn't they want to get in on, and add to, the not-so-secret lore of the mechanical music enthusiasts? What would they bring to the table?

A recent posting at bOINGbOING on a player piano performance drew enthusiastic comments, but my attempts to post something like this message there have simply vanished into space. I used to subscribe to the steampunk community, but apparently allowed that to lapse, and rejoining just to post a glorified want ad seems sort of cheap. But hey, if anybody who reads this felt like reposting it or directing their eyes to my page, I'd love to get the word out.

Pneumatic tubes! Mainsprings! Foot pedals! Escapements! Antique mahogany finish! Burnished metal! Jewel bearings! Ebony and ivory keys! AND when you do it right, MUSIC comes out!

Here's the home page. There are links to years of postings from members, photos, movies, and sound files (midi and mp3), and you can participate by getting a free account and logging in.
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Let's all get in the mood for a patriotic USA holiday! Come on, readers in many lands! It'll be fun, I promise!

Horowitz plays his stunning transcription of Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Dad saw him play this on stage and says he never heard anybody get that much volume out of a piano. Just when you thought he couldn't play louder, he did. In the 'live' version, which is for some reason heard more than the studio version, the recording equipment can't get it all, and it distorts. This video shows the music as well, which only makes it more impressive how he puts a singing voice (or two) into the middle of all the ornamentation, including his octave-skipping trills. This may be my all-time favorite piano transcription.

Years ago, I saw Chet Atkins on "Soundstage," and he introduced this piece by mentioning that there was this 17-year-old kid in Louisiana who just worshipped him. He played all of Chet's records, and played along with them until he could match every note. "Nobody told him that I multi-tracked those things in the studio," Chet said. Then he played Van Duser's guitar solo version of "Stars and Stripes Forever" (here played by Mr. Van Duser) almost to the end before jokily terminating the performance (which is also on YouTube, of course).

[edited to add: Vess L. Ossman's banjo band version of "Stars and Stripes Forever" (mp3 — sorry, on listening again I see that the file has been filtered since I got my own copy, and the formerly scratchy but listenable track is now overshadowed by mp3 artifacts, and you can barely even tell that you're hearing banjo music)]

More patriotism from Albert Brooks! "Rewriting the National Anthem"
("Nobody sings it on the way to work any more…")

AND "A Phone Call to Americans" (with Harry Shearer)
("We play the Star Spangled Banner at ball games, but still, one team always loses!!")

<i>unrelated and possibly unpatriotic — Here's the bit Albert did the first time he was on Ed Sullivan, as the last ventriloquist act you'll ever need to see, "Dave and Danny"
("Well, why don't ya have a cigarette? That always calms ya down!")</i>

Posted earlier in slightly different form at "Making Light." Edited because all my HTML was showing, duh.
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Something prompted me to look at IMSLP.org again for piano transcriptions of Bach. I've been a fan of the 2nd trio sonata since I first heard Biggs play it on the pedal harpsichord, and my attempts to play the third movement from the organ score I have never have paid off. Somehow, this time, they actually had something for me!

August Stradal is mostly known for one piece, a piano version of Bach's organ version of a Vivaldi concerto. I was glad to see that he also turned his attention to this, and I eagerly downloaded the PDF, pausing only twelve hours because the file wouldn't download at first. Uh oh. It looks like the copy scanned from must have been so yellowed as to have been nearly brown — and after scanning, the brown parts became a thick halftone; darkest at the edges, but present in every part of the score. Challenge.

I put the first page of the movement into Photoshop, erased the outside edges completely, tried lightening to see if it would make the dots go away, tried filtering for noise. Nothing would do but 'the hard way.' I set to work; there were nine pages. I loaded comb-punched paper in the printer and started printing pages as I went along.

After two pages, the printer, which started complaining about toner after about a week, refused to print any more. I took the cartridge out, shook it and replaced it, and was rewarded by having it pretend it was about to print for a minute or two. Then I went online and found a place where someone told how to disable the "quit printing when cartridge is half empty" feature. As usual, each new page took longer than the one before as I forgot my intention of cleaning lightly and not trying to get every single jot. I finished around 10:30 last night and put the pages into my 'works in progress' book and played through it one time. Needs practice, of course, but it was promising.

I had also put the last page of the file into Photoshop, but didn't need to touch it. It was the back cover of the original sheet music, and it had a list of other Stradal productions. Two were original pieces, and the rest were transcriptions. Among these, I found Bach's fifth Brandenburg concerto. This prompted me to look again at IMSLP to see if that was there as well. It wasn't, but there was a two-hands version by somebody else, which turns out to be a fresh, clean typeset. It's also 27 pages long, so I'm leaving it for later.

Anyway, what a haul! Two of my long-time requests, filled the same day. Truly, it is an age of marvels.
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…a freshly tuned grand piano in the living room.
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Here's two minutes of, for me, pure unadulterated joy from an old LP of songs from the Mickey Mouse Club. Buddy Ebsen, just then working on the Davy Crockett series, teams with Mouseketeer Darlene Gillespie in a homespun paean to the humble buckwheat pancake. Accordion and pedal steel guitar figure prominently in the accompaniment, along with clarinet, and unobtrusive rhythm.)

Buddy & Darlene:
Buckwheat cakes, buckwheat cakes, along with crispy bacon!
Yes it is your buckwheat cakes that sets my heart to achin'!

(The accordion echoes the word "bacon!" Buddy and Darlene sing in harmony.)

Buddy:
It can't be your chocolate cake, or your Irish stew
It can't be your chocolate cake that makes me fond of you!

(Listen to the warmth Buddy can put into a recital of foods. He twinkles with his voice, just enough that I can feel it in 2012, and not so much as to cloy.)

Both:
It's buckwheat cakes, buckwheat cakes, along with crispy bacon!
Yes it is your buckwheat cakes that sets my heart to achin'!

Darlene:
What about my girlish ways, and my purty hair?
What about my girlish ways, or maybe you don't care?

(Darlene's voice is clear, with a melodious hillbilly accent that doesn't interfere with her diction.)

Buddy:
No, it ain't your girlish ways, or your purty hair.
No, it ain't your girlish ways that makes me set and stare.

(It's not as if he's rejecting her here. He just has different reasons.)

Both:
It's buckwheat cakes, buckwheat cakes, along with crispy bacon!
Yes it is your buckwheat cakes that sets my heart to achin'!

(A sprightly instrumental solo follows, with some tasty work on clarinet and pedal steel guitar. It goes around twice.)

Darlene:
How about my friendly smile, 'specially for you?
How about my friendly smile? I see you're smilin' too.

Buddy:
No, it ain't your friendly smile, or your dimpled chin.
No, it ain't your friendly smile that brings me back again.

(Listen to Buddy: "nnnnNNNO!!" He finds something that's probably not in the music; a little moment where he can make something out of nothing, adding to the song without even slowing the flow. And he doesn't waste it in an early verse, either. The second "no" suggests, but doesn't repeat, the first snap. And it's still playful.)

Both:
It's buckwheat cakes, buckwheat cakes, because I'm only human.
I just love the buckwheat cakes, made by a purty woman!

Buddy:
I just love the buckwheat cakes, made by a purty woman!

Darlene:
(spoken) Aw, Pa, quit your kiddin'!

(And Darlene rescues the song from what could have been seen as creepy by a cynical 21st century listener, putting it back squarely into the heartwarming category. Darlene may be eclipsed somewhat by Buddy's innate talent honed by decades of experience, but make no mistake: these are a pair of pros at the height of their powers. How much time do you suppose they had with this? A quarter of an hour? A half hour, from the time they were given the music to when the director said it was a wrap? I'm guessing closer to the former. This is star power, and it works for me every time I hear it.)

Music, lyrics, performance and recording ©Walt Disney Studios. If you liked this sample, go buy something.
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Around 1:00 today, a moving van showed up, along with a smaller vehicle. I shook hands with Chad and Vincent, who had come in the latter, and then Art, who drove the van. I'd talked to Art on the phone a couple of times. I showed them the vestibule and inside steps, and we commented on the rain. Then they set up the ramps and loaded 658 pounds of piano, swaddled in pads, onto one of those little four-wheeled dollies and wheeled it to the porch. The steps were a challenge. I helped a little. All went smoothly. I tipped them, and Chad and Vincent departed while Art put the pedals on and then we took care of the paperwork.

According to its serial number, the Baldwin Model R was made in 1975. It's 4'10" or so wide, 5'8" long, and 3'3" high. In a couple of weeks we'll get it tuned. We'll also get the upright we bought along with the house tuned (and one key fixed) so we can sell it on Craigslist. Until it sells, I have two pianos. Three, if you count the electronic one. But I digress.

I made so bold as to play a couple of short pieces. I left it open so it can acclimate for the next couple of weeks. Padding notwithstanding, it was somewhat humid to the touch. I reluctantly went back to my routine, had some lunch, tried to call Dad and thank him, but got no answer at any of the usual numbers. I watched some TV and made the rounds of internet stuff and email.

I looked a few minutes ago. It's still there.

a piano

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to play the grahnd piahno!
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yee-haw

Oct. 5th, 2011 12:12 am
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Thanks to Tony Redman at the Vintage Ads group for this amazing link to an 8-1/2 minute Dodge industrial film starring Tom (The Singing Cowboy) Lehrer. Cautionary note to those of the present enlightened day: back then, America's ethnic minorities talked and acted weird for no apparent reason. I guess they've seen the light since then, because I never have actually heard one talk like... well, never mind.


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whew

May. 15th, 2011 12:38 pm
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Classical music isn't irrelevant after all!

[thanks to Dufus at rec.music.classical.recordings]
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ding dong

May. 9th, 2011 07:54 pm
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Cathy informed me that the sound track for "The Book of Mormon" is online, for today only (streaming at NPR). It's an hour, eight and a half minutes long. I plan to sit down and hear it after I've had my walk.
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THE BEATLES' 'PENNY LANE' TRUMPETER DEAD AT 85
"We spent three hours working it out. Paul sang the parts he wanted, George Martin wrote them out, I tried them. But the actual recording was done quite quickly. They were jolly high notes, but with the tapes rolling we did two takes as overdubs on top of the existing song. I've spent a lifetime playing with top orchestras yet I'm most famous for playing on 'Penny Lane!'"

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Robert Crumb, one of the greatest comic artists, will be on WFMU to talk about his passion for old music today (part 1 of 2). The station will make it available as video too. Here's what they said on their blog:
Underground artist/hero and avid 78 RPM collector Robert Crumb joins Mac on the Antique Phonograph Music Program. He will talk about why no music recorded after the 1930s matters, and provide other nuggets of wisdom gleaned from 50+ years spent collecting records. Links will be provided to video of Crumb's interview! It happens on 4/5 from 8 to 9 PM (part 1 of 2).
I looked at the program link, and if you have any interest in old records, you might get lost in their archives. Looks like there are a lot of shows there that can be clicked upon.

lutocracy

Feb. 12th, 2011 09:04 am
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At the last minute, I bought a ticket to see Paul O'Dette play at a church downtown. Though he's on the faculty at Eastman, he plays four times a year in Paris, and he plays here once every four years.

He seems to be popular, though, and filled most of the sanctuary, including a three-sided balcony section above. It's a lovely room, with a white pipe organ, some pipes of which resemble background characters in a Disney cartoon. When he started playing, the light tone of his instrument (a modern recreation of an antique) also filled the room as those of us with coughs struggled to keep our layrnxes quiet. His tuning up was more melodious than the playing of, well, I won't name names.

He presented three or four anonymous pieces, then a set of Dowland compositions, including one Dowland wrote upon a galiard of Bacheler. Bacheler was the compositional star of the night. O'Dette had been able to locate a previously unknown stash of Bacheler's works, most of them unheard for centuries. A pre-recital talk from the director of the Pegasus early music society, which had sponsored the presentation, filled me in on a lot of the details.

After the interval (during which I ran out to my car to get my monocular, to compensate for being in the back row), he played a set of Bacheler's fancies, galiards, jiggs, and such. These were a bit more intricate than the Dowland. Where Dowland would ornament with scale passages, Bacheler went for larger intervals and different figures, which one would expect to be more difficult for the performer.

You couldn't tell it from O'Dette's quiet demeanor, though. All challenges seemed equal in his deft fingers. There may have been some sub-vocal sounds coming from him — I couldn't be sure, back where I was — but the tone was musical throughout.

I could contrast it with a violin recital I attended the night before, where the intonation was a little off, pizzicato passages seemed to stick to the strings and cut off the sound, and harmonics that should have soared broke and fell to the ground.

As I left for the reception, I saw that the CDs had sold out entirely, making me glad I'd bought one on the way in. I chose the all-Bacheler disk, and it was on my iPod before I went to bed.

(I wrote a longer review earlier, but this one leaves out a lot of irrelevant stuff that I often seem unable to omit. Edited slightly at 10:30 am.)
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Over at the classical music blog, The Music Parlour, the host has posted something of possible interest to my SF and film-loving friends: music from the score of Things to Come, by Arthur Bliss. I haven't listened to it yet, but I expect to give it a whirl later on.

Speaking of whirls, I woke up feeling dizzy and nigh queasy. I've spent most of the day since horizontal, and much of that sleeping. I feel better now, but I'm not enjoying walking around. Sarah came home from school a half hour ago, and we cut into the pudding pie the two of us made last night (Jell-o instant Chocolate Fudge over Pistachio in a pre-made chocolate crumb crust; garnished with whipped cream and streaks of chocolate syrup). It is a good pie.

Note: The link at the bottom of the entry is to Vaughan Williams's "The Wasps." To get to the Bliss material, click the "Historical" link at the top of the page. Then hope that Megaupload is in the right mood: when I clicked the first link, it said it was temporarily unavailable. I clicked the second link and it said my limit was exceeded but maybe if I wait two minutes and try again, it will relent. We shall see.

(Update: So far, nope. When did I exceed my limit? I haven't been using Megaupload.)
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to life!

Sep. 18th, 2010 01:45 pm
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Here's a father giving a toast at a wedding. Lucky there were cameras on hand to catch it!



I can't think of any wedding I've been to in person where I actually cried, but this one got me, in a good way.

thanks to Mark Evanier
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S1K - 026 to
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And now, it's what you've all been waiting for!

what, again?Continuing our methodical walk through The Book of a Thousand Songs [Wier, 1918]

p 26: "Ah! I Have Sighed To Rest Me (Il Trovatore)" [G. Verdi], "All Glory, Laud, And Honor" [M. Teschner]. (note: it's their idea to capitalize every word, not mine)
This is the second part of the "Miserere" from Act III of Verdi's "Il Trovatore," and it appears to be a translation of what actually happens here, making for a nice change from a tendency of the editors to employ instead a nice little song about chirpy birds or a moral lesson about honesty or posture. The orchestra accompaniment is absent, and in its place we have the song expanded to four-part harmony.
Not sure what's up with "All Glory." The first part is something I've heard in a Christmas carol, and then the second part goes somewhere else entirely. Where's the Hosannah in Excelsis? I can't think of the title now, and am too lazy to search through all my books of carols.

p 27: "Am I Not Fondly Thine Own?", "At Evening-Time" [E.M. Steadman]
note: "All Glory" spills over into this page. I'm mostly not going to bother mentioning when that happens.
"Am I Not" is a semi-translation of "Du, Du, liegst mir in Herzen," which we used to sing in grade school. My fifth-grade teacher taught us little bits of German. This version loses the part where the object of affection makes the singer unhappy even though singer is so good to object and just makes it a sappy little love ditty.
"At Evening-Time" is a straightforward 6/8 Allegretto with no surprises in its pastoral imagery of dusk.

p 28: "Ah, For Wings To Soar", "Away With Melancholy" [W.A. Mozart], "Annie Lisle" [H.S. Thompson].
"Ah, For Wings" is a straightforward 6/8 Andante with no surprises in its lyrical whining to an unresponsive love.
"Away With Melancholy" is a tune from "The Magic Flute." The lyrics here don't correspond with what's in the opera (surprise!), which had a lot of "la la la" going on. Apparently the tune had quite a busy life both as an adaptation from the opera and as a song, and existed in multiple arrangements for all sorts of instruments. J. Pierpont, original writer of Jingle Bells, set one for his glee club with lyrics that apparently started to vary with the second line. Fernando Sor wrote an utterly charming set of variations for guitar on the theme, which I play on keyboard, because why not? The Great Song Thesaurus says the lyrics are anonymous, and I believe it. I browsed a rather substantial article online to learn more about the piece, and one of the scanned musical examples in it was right out of the Book of a Thousand Songs.
"Annie Lisle" is a pleasant Scots tune from 1860, with rhythms that snap (especially on the unexpected short-long pairs) and some nice variation in the accompaniment. It may sound familiar to Cornell grads, as it was adapted in 1872 to become "High Above Cayuga's Waters." I learned recently that Cayuga is a lake. I suppose everybody else already knew that.

p 29: "All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name!" [Oliver Holden], "Ah, Tell Me Why" [A. Warlamoff].
This is a hymn we used to sing at Northside Baptist. One week our friend Nancy announced it and it sounded a little like she said "All hell," and we kids laughed and laughed. What boring lives we must have led.
"Ah! Tell Me Why" is another misunderstood lover song. Warlamoff would appear to have been a Russian who wrote vocal and choral music. No idea if the lyrics belong to the song. Wieniawski and Kullak both made arrangements of some of his tunes for their respective instruments.

p 30: "Adieu! 'Tis Love's Last Greeting" [Fr. Schubert], "Amici".
The Schubert seems to be well-known as a song and a choral song. No idea where the English lyrics come from. It's a graveside love song, so it could well be a translation from the original (presumably German). No trace of Schubert's piano style can be found in the four-part setting.
"Amici" is another borrowing from "Annie Lisle" (see p 28), so I pencilled Thompson's name in on the score.

p 31: "All Quiet Along The Potomac" [Mrs. Ethel Beers, J. Dayton], "Angels Ever Bright And Fair" [Handel].
Seems like it should be called "All Quiet Along The Potomac Tonight," as this was the form in which it was published in the 1860s. It was first a poem called "The Picket Guard," written by Mrs. Beers (bylined just E.B. at first) based on telegrams by Maj-Gen McClellan following the First Battle of Bull Run. The song was set to music by John Hill Hewitt, but that's not the version in this book. It's similar, but not identical. And some creep named Lamar Fontaine seems to have tried to grab credit for the lyrics. He must not get away with it.
"Angels" is from a Handel opera, "Theodora." The arrangement starts out with one voice, adding more to end up with four at the end.

p 32: "All Souls' Day" [Edward Lassen], "Angry Words".
A light arrangement of an art song from a past master — possibly somewhat neglected now, but I could be wrong. It occupies the middle ground between a love song and a memento mori.
"Angry Words" is another little life lesson, presumably for the kids. The melody doesn't remind me of anything in particular.

p 33: "Angel's Serenade" [G Braga].
This once-popular song can be found in arrangements for many instruments, including a piano version that's in a lot of older collections and was apparently adapted as a theme for some incarnation of "Amos & Andy." The Child hears the sound of angels, The Mother hears nothing, and the angels end up taking The Child. It's somewhat less dramatic and menacing than Schubert's "Erlking," but it's the same plot: Child hears supernatural entity who takes it away. The arrangement follows the narrative, and may be thinner than some versions but still carries it all, putting some of the accompaniment into the right hand along with the melody to do it. There are even a couple of four-note chords in the right hand. One of the more challenging pieces in the book so far.

also posted to the New Pals Club Web-Log
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For my money, the best musical number from the American stage and cinema is the one I just happened to catch again on Turner Classic Movies: "If I Were King of the Forest" from THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), performed with ultimate taste and gusto by Bert Lahr and company.

It's also my favorite movie, and yet another disproof that nothing good is ever made by a committee. It had more hands on it than [snide reference to popstar deleted], but it shines with a wit that's at once naïve and knowing. The jokes are funny, the songs are eternal, the characters have pushed aside the originals they were based on, and the thrills keep working for me.

The only false moment is Dorothy's surrender to reality brainwashing at the end, and even that's emotionally satisfying. The sepiatoned Kansas backstory makes the step into Oz ten times more effective than it would have been without it, but for Dorothy to want to return to the unsolved problem of Miss Gulch doesn't make objective sense, even in a dream.

But the Lion's big solo, complete with cadenzas, is the stuff of heroism. The burlesque daintiness of his movements, each one tastefully set off with perfect little gestures, echoes the set of operatic quirks in his aria. His vibrato on the "-ng" of "king" is thrillingly over the top. He uses every bit of himself in selling the number — no small feat, considering how much he's wrapped in! His eyes, his hands, his posture, all tell the story of his yearning.

And of course, the support from his friends in the non-singing bits is incalculable. Never did a ham have three better shills, whose unadorned credulousness doesn't keep them from effortlessly deflating him at the end. (And let's have a little love for Harburg and Arlen, and Stothart and Cutter and every musician who wrapped the scene in a golden musical sheen, and whoever thoughtfully left a rolled-up green carpet and mantle-shaped rug lying around, along with a vase that would break handily into a crown of just the right size.)
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I finished straightening out my iPod/iTunes, having gone through about 18000 tracks. It's good to be finished.

I discovered the Auburn Trail, or rediscovered it. It was the Auburn Line until about 90 years ago, and now it's a walking trail, interrupted only by the Erie Canal and some homeowners who blockade the path with piles of branches and brush in an attempt to annex this public thoroughfare to their back yard. Now I understand that the big ol' piling in the middle of the canal where Knickerbocker comes out was the railroad bridge. I walked on another part of this same trail just over two years ago when we moved here and were living briefly in an apartment. All in all, it's 24 miles long, or 42, or something like that. I'm already forgetting the stuff I've looked up about it. Because it's late.

Sarah finished school today. My schedule will now shift to a later stratum of time for the summer. But I'm still tired, and I skipped my stretches today just to get through LJ. Also missed the nap I usually take, and probably some other stuff. I gave two quotes on potential jobs today. It'd be nice if one of them would work out. It's good to earn some money.

I spent some time talking to a technician from Sony about why the Reader software opens on my computer but then doesn't open a window or in any other way make itself useful. The Reader they sent me to replace my other one seems to have the right sort of battery life, anyway.

Say, I was going to post about this separately, but I'll just toss it out and then go brush my teeth and lie down for a few hours. WFMU is going to present a bunch of Firesign Theatre Radio Hours. They have an informative post about that right here. With some audio clips (music only, as far as I've found so far). Note the links to streaming shows: two of them are up so far. I put a link to that in my toolbar where I'll see it when I'm awake.

Speaking of music, here's a link from bOINGbOING to some Jay Ward music cues. I have a bunch of these on my iPod, having carefully transcribed them from VHS tapes of the show. Great stuff.

I reposted a handful of links to Fischerkösen animated ads (dating as far back as the 1930s in Germany). This 2006 comment from Making Light has links. I hope they're still good.

Right. I'm off now.
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The Book of a Thousand Songs
In which I continue my traversal of The Book of a Thousand Songs [Wier, 1918]

p 19: "Angel Gabriel" [J.E. Stewart], "A, B, C, Tumble Down D" [no credits].
The latter is a puddin' and the former is a fake. "Angel G" is a 'gwine' song with a credited writer, so it would seem to have been intended for a minstrel show or perhaps a book of sentimental songs of the south. Dotted rhythms, but very little syncopation.
"ABC" is in 6/8, which isn't the way I heard it on a kiddie LP we had in the house when I was a kiddie. I recall thinking it was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard, but I guess I hadn't heard a lot of things at that time, because it's been topped repeatedly since then. Is this the first song in the book that has no writer credited at all? It's far from the last. A perfunctory Google offers no hints.

p 20: "Afterwards" [Mary Mark Lemon, J.W. Mullen].
Unless otherwise noted, the lyricist's name precedes the composer's.

A sentimental song with nothing that strikes me as remarkable in the lyrics. The arrangement, which I expect reflects the composer's work, though it adheres to the general rule of the book in having no chord thicker than three notes in either hand, varies the figures used and seems to be competent and craftsmanlike, if not stunning.

p. 21: "Ave Maria" [Bach-Gounod], "Ah, 'Tis a Dream" [E. Lassen].
Bach's most famous prelude, the first from Book 1 of "The Well-Tempered Clavier," was used by Charles Gounod (best known for his opera "Faust" and for "Funeral March of a Marionette," which was used as the theme for Alfred Hitchcock's TV show) as an accompaniment to the melody of an Ave Maria. The view that this was a wonderful achievement is undercut by George Bernard Shaw's claim that all Gounod did was pull out the underlying harmony Bach put in. Still, it's popular to this day in all sorts of arrangements. This one leaves out the Bach prelude completely and gives a choral setting (SATB) of the Gounod part. You could play this and have a friend play the Bach on another keyboard, but you'll have to transpose the prelude up to G to match the key, and be sure and use the version of the prelude with the extra measure Schwenke inserted, which is most of the versions you'd have found before modern scholarship started asserting itself on the matter.
Lassen's song is a nostalgic wish for home, written in 9/8 with some duplets for emphasis. Wier let this one go on for three verses. Maybe he liked it.

pages 22-5 behind the jump )
Also posted to the New Pals Club Web-Log
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The Book of a Thousand Songs
In which I begin my traversal of The Book of a Thousand Songs [Wier, 1918].

The music follows a lengthy (as you might imagine) table of contents which somewhat mirrors the organization of the book. Alphabetical order guides but does not dictate placement -- Wier, or whoever did these things for him, was sensitive to layout and convenience. As a result, there are very few places where I need to turn a page once I'm playing a piece. I noticed one the other day and was almost shocked by it.

So the book is roughly alphabetic, but not fanatically so, with the same relaxed sort of organization as my two comb-bound books of photocopied music (almost entirely stuff I own or which is out of copyright), only they're on a vague chronological scheme. The first page forsakes even rough order in order to be patriotic.

p 12: "America" [Samuel F. Smith], "The Star-Spangled Banner" [John Stafford Smith, Francis Scott Key].
The editor relaxes his usual method of presenting no more than two verses and gives four for "America." The Book of World-Famous Music [Fuld], a valuable reference on such matters, says that nobody's sure whose tune it is. The Great Song Thesaurus credits a Mr. Harris.
I penciled in John Stafford Smith for "The Star-Spangled Banner." It's not that I'm tentative; it's just that a pencil is what I keep by the piano. The melody varies a little from the standard version we hear. There's a little less martial snap to it. The song didn't become our national anthem until 1931, but it was already popular in 1918 so its inclusion isn't surprising.

p 13: "At Pierrot's Door" [French folk song].
I played this way back in the first time I tried (and failed) to take piano lessons from my Dad, as "Au Clair de la Lune."

p 14: "Alice, Where Art Thou?" [J. Ascher], "Abide with Me" [H.F. Lyte, W.H. Monk].
The former would seem to be the source of a snippet Dad used to pop out with at odd moments, "Al-ice, where are you go-ing?" (To which the answer was "Down the drain.") Neither lyric is actually in the song.
"Abide with Me" is one of those hymns I've heard over and over, over the years.

p 15: "Ave Maria" [fr Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni], "Auld Lang Syne" [Traditional, and Robert Burns].
Instrumental opera intermezzo with (religious) words attached. Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, the librettists, had nothing to do with this, so I won't be writing their names in on it.
I added "Trad" to "Auld Lang Syne" because Burns didn't write the first verse. The melody first showed up as a germ of its present self in one of Playford's dance tune collections and was modified in subsequent appearances. The folk process at work.

p 16: "As Down in the Sunless Retreats" [Thomas Moore, Joseph Haydn], "As a Little Child" [C.M. Von Weber].
Thomas Moore gave us songs and lyrics that are still remembered. Some may have been original, many were taken from Irish and other folk sources. We'll run into him later, with "Believe Me, if All those Endearing Young Charms," "The Minstrel Boy," "The Last Rose of Summer" and, well, more. I'm not sure how he got together with Haydn, but it seems he wrote a poem and used something Haydn had left sitting around for a tune.
I don't know enough Weber to say if this is a translation of something he really set or if it's one of those didactic little bromides some educator cobbled together.

p 17: "Away Down Souf" [Stephen C. Foster], "Aura Lee" [W.W. Fosdick, Geo. R. Poulton].
Foster wins the previously unannounced prize for first use of the N-word in this collection. Seemed to me at one time that minstrel songs were an opportunity for uptight whites to express emotions that were too real for other songs, but I may have been wrong. Anyway, this is one of the happy ones, and that's an emotion I don't see as much of in white songs of the time -- they were more into sweethearts dying young and like that.
I had to write in both writers' names for "Aura Lee," courtesy of The Book of World-Famous Music. Elvis Presley covered this in the 50s as "Love Me Tender," with lyrics mainly by Ken Darby.

p 18: "Ah! So Pure" [F. von Flotow; w: W Friedrich].
A memorable air from a somewhat forgotten opera. I added in the writer of the lyrics, though the translation is anonymous. I like to play the version of this that's in Gems of the Universe, and tend to imagine it being sung by Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer.

Now I'm worried. I didn't plan to write about every song. Maybe these were just special or something. I'm sure I'll have nothing much to say about "Angel Gabriel" on page 19. But it's late now, so I'm off to prepare for bed. Night, all.

Mirrored at the New Pals Club Web-Log
Edited slightly for format and words out.

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kip_w: (hands)
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The Book of a Thousand Songs

The Book of a Thousand Songs. I first saw it on a shelf at Southern Music in San Antonio, TX, and a quick look convinced me I didn't need it. After returning home to Georgia, I suddenly decided I needed it after all, ordered it over the phone, and found that it's a trove of slightly shopworn treasures. The songs go from being as short as one line to taking a couple of pages, divided between ones that look like choral settings, ones that have a melody in one hand and the accompaniment in the other, and ones where the melody is woven into a rich enough piano part.

When we lived in Virginia, I found a second copy of this book. My first is a large volume, a little over half the thickness of a ream of paper and about the same size otherwise. The second copy was printed during wartime, so it's more petite and the paper is thinner. I rigged a cardboard slipcase for it and carried it in my backpack for years. I'm glad to have the lighter copy, as the somewhat improvised music stand on my electrical piano is not at its best with large, heavy volumes. When I get that messed-up hammer wire fixed on the other piano this won't be a problem.

The book is copyright 1918, edited by the once-ubiquitous Albert E(rnest) Wier, who is also responsible for Masterpieces of Piano Music, a glorious brick of sheet music covering everything from Bach to some formerly fashionable flashes in the pan who wrote painfully figurative little tone poems for the parlor player. It was part of the Music for the Millions series that brought so darn much culture to so many, and which have brought much joy to me personally. The older edition bore a MUMIL imprint, which first looked like a dignified Roman numeral. I eventually figured out its true meaning. (Can you figure it out, Dear Reader? The clue is in this paragraph!)

Sentimental songs! Operatic songs! Sacred songs! Hymns! Children's songs! Southern songs! College songs! Sea songs! Rounds! Patriotic songs! National and Folk songs! This book was put together back in the dim, forgotten days when it was actually possible for a song to come out of copyright (that's right, kids!), so it has snappy pop numbers from a couple of decades before 1918 and on back. It has classical tunes with sappy bromides fitted in place of the original dramatic intent (along with ones bearing apparent translations that are at least intended to be faithful) such as school children probably suffered to while developing a solid loathing for any and all forms of culture and uplift.

The book's most endearing feature is that it lets me make connections. I play this one, and realize where that tune comes from that I used to hear in the background of a cartoon, or where the lyric that Krazy Kat sings to himself is from. I play that one and it dawns on me that it was parodied in a Lewis Carroll book. I find more songs by Septimus Winner, a particular favorite, who wrote "Listen to the Mocking-Bird" and "Whispering Hope" under a pseudonym, as well as "Ten Little Indians" and "Der Deitscher's Dog" -- which we seem to know now as "Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone," and which is as often as not generously credited to the prolific "Anonymous" in these lazy times.

I showed this to my musician father, and he now has a copy of his own. He also likes to do what I do, which is to play through it aimlessly, annotating when a light bulb goes off; writing in a missing composer or lyric source (Claribel! Dekker!) or other trivium ("It's possible that The Old Grey Goose is a parody of this"). I recently mentioned to Dad that I was playing through some pages in the book, and he asked how far I'd gotten. Oh no, I said, I meant I'd just started in the middle and had played a half dozen or so pages… but it got me thinking. Why not, I thought, start from the beginning (like I did once with Gems of the Universe) and play every song at least one time through, repeats optional?

So I did. Updates to follow. I'm up to about page 32 now. I don't intend to write about every song, just to hit the interesting spots. If the book interests you, it's still available, and probably not more than about 100% more than I paid for my first copy, which was ten bucks. There are also scans of it online, or there have been. If I come across it again, I'll post a URL. I have my own set of scans that I made for my own use, so even though I'm not carrying the book in my backpack these days (it's getting fragile, and I gave in and taped a couple of pages that wanted to be free), it still goes a lot of the same places I go.


Mirrored at the New Pals Club Web-Log
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