If 7/4 time is weird, how weird is 13/16?

I wrote once here about how, back in a high school music class, our music teacher played a bit of recorded music for us and then asked us to figure out the time signature.  I identified it as being in 7/4 time, which apparently impressed some people to such an extent that they still remember me having done this to this very day.

Well, I’m glad to see, from an article at slate.com, that the challenge of figuring out the time signatures in weird pieces of music is something some people like to do.

It’s been determined that some of the score for the original “Terminator” movie was written in 13/16.  See this link for more info.

I don’t know if I could have figured this one out on my own or not, but now that I know the answer, I’ll never know.

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“Rhapsody in Blue” is 90 Freaking Years Old

There are a few magical, musical moments I can recall that set me on my lifelong course as a self-taught pianist and organist. One of them occurred when I was in the 6th grade at George C. Payne elementary school in Campbell, California.

Most of the time, my 6th grade’s class’ exposure to new knowledge would come from the personal efforts of Mrs. Jones standing up in front of our class delivering the lecture of the moment; she was one of the two 6th grade teachers at our school. Occasionally she would wheel in a movie projector and we would watch something about South America for social studies, or maybe something about science. (There were no DVD players or TVs used in school back in those days; mounting a movie reel and threading the film properly through the projector was an adventure in itself. Heaven help you if the film broke at some point during the presentation.)

But one day, Mrs. Jones announced that we would be listening to a special radio program about music over the intercom system as it was piped into our room from the school office; I presume the other 6th grade class next door to ours was listening in as well, but I don’t know this for certain.

I don’t remember much of what we were exposed to in our musical education that day, but what I do remember was when “Rhapsody in Blue” was played during the program. Suddenly, here was something that struck me as being eminently worth listening to. I don’t remember how much of it was played for us; the piece is, if I’m not mistaken, at least 20 minutes long, and I doubt they devoted that much time to it out of the the entire broadcast.

But that day, I came away from class knowing that I had just heard “something wonderful” (in the words of Dave Bowman in “2010″ when he warns Heywood Floyd that big doings are about to take place on Jupiter). I’ve tried to memorize the piano solo version of “Rhapsody”, and because parts of it are so difficult to play, I haven’t practiced it for a long time, and now I can only get so far into the piece from memory before I hit a blank wall and have to stop.

But thank you, George Gershwin, for the challenge that it is to attempt to play it, and for the magic that “Rhapsody” is to the ear.

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What are these “protected” posts?

My apologies to those of you (I know bloglovin.com was able to see the entries) who are wondering about the “protected” posts on my site.  They were a series of Christmas Stocking Hunt clues intended solely for the use of my family, and now that Christmas has come and gone, so are the posts.  So any links to them that you might find somewhere will just end up at the ol’ internet dead end.

As Maxwell Smart would say, sorry about that, Chief.

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Singing vs. speaking

According to the story at http://www.today.com/health/if-gabby-giffords-still-struggles-speak-how-can-she-sing-2D11888324, one side of our brain is responsible for singing, and the other side handles normal speech.  If one suffers from some sort of brain damage on the side that controls regular speaking, sometimes the brain can be “rewired” to have the singing side take over for the speaking side by “singing” what one wants to say.

Interesting how our brains are just built to handle music differently.

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Chicago’s magical piano

Clearly, somebody with a line of sight to the piano is actually playing, but this would be a lot of fun to do.  Let the people walk by and then do musical impressions of them, or play duets as happens a couple of times here.

I particularly like the accompaniment to the guy waving his arms while talking on the cell phone.

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My attempt to be Tom Hanks for the evening

Tonight was the annual ward Christmas party/dinner, and to be honest, I hadn’t originally planned on going.  Those in charge of the event were really pushing the ward members to turn out for the thing; the activities committee had decided to do a “Polar Express” kind of theme in order to try and kick start everyone’s interest in going. Everyone in the ward got sent little golden translucent tickets to the event which granted them a brief ride on the Polar Express before being granted admission to the cultural hall, where the youth of the ward had been recruited to wear Hot Chocolatier chef outfits and elf costumes.

Just this last Sunday, I got asked to be one of the two train conductors for the event; I was given to understand that my recent community theater involvement was at least partially responsible for someone thinking I might make a good conductor.  I’ve gotten to be somewhat well known in the ward for my amateur thespian proclivities, thanks to a supportive Sunday School instructor who always made sure that the class knew when I was acting in a community theater play and what it was about.

Adding to my reluctance to participate, it was my birthday tonight, and though I knew I didn’t have any money to go and do anything special, I was still a little hesitant to give up “my” day to spend it dressing up as a character in a movie I hadn’t really seen but a couple of times, and certainly not recently.  Fortunately, the other requested conductor (we had two train cars running in parallel, kind of like a ride at Disneyland, so as to not make everybody wait too long to get into the building) was able to procure enough costume pieces, props and a fake mustache, to give me enough credibility as a conductor on the Polar Express to make the thing fun.  If you can get a decent costume, it can hide a multitude of sins and give a boost to one’s flagging enthusiasm.  I’m what you would call “portly” (if you’re being polite) and am a bit of a difficult fit when it comes down to finding me a costume.

So I spent some time over the last couple of nights trying to work up a semi-decent vocal imitation of Tom Hanks’ character in the movie, and I think it came off OK.  Sounds a little bit like Don Adams’ old Maxwell Smart character, but in small doses — 5 minute’s worth — it’s not too irritating.  Or so I hope.  Checked everybody’s ticket, pretended to lose my balance here and there as the train “rolled” along, and just generally hammed it up.

Speaking of ham, that was on the dinner menu, so I guess it was entirely appropriate.

So, despite my initial reluctance, I’m glad I did it.  Special thanks go to Brother McFadyen, who, as I understand it, was the original Wally Kessler in “Saturday’s Warrior” way back when, and who was the other conductor who did the hard work of coming up with the costume pieces for me.  He definitely gave me the needed boost to make me want to do more with this than to simply go through the motions.

Wonder what they’ll want to do next year… ?

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A musical coincidence

Sometimes I browse the www.psychologytoday.com website because there inevitably is an article about music that will show up if I browse long enough.  Today’s browsing found this one: Does Music Help Memory?

The article explores the conjecture that listening to music while studying helps one remember better what’s being studied.

Whether or not this is true, well… depends.

Results indicated that people with more musical experience learned better with neutral music but tested better with pleasurable music. The opposite was true for people without music training.

If you have musical training, then the thinking is that listening to non-neutral music (music you enjoy, in other words) while studying is a distraction, and as we all know, distractions are not good.  If you have musical training (and I think I can vouch for this on some level), when you’re listening to music, you don’t just listen, you analyze.  You try and figure out what the music is doing: what was that chord progression?  What’s the drummer doing there?  Is that a bassoon or an oboe?  Ooh, that was an interesting key change!  Did we just briefly change time signatures there?

And so on.

If you don’t have any musical training, then your brain (or so goes the theory) isn’t using up so much bandwidth doing analysis of the music, and more effort goes into loading what one is studying into the brain.

And that makes sense to me.  I listen, on occasion, to songs on my personal Spotify playlist while I’m at work, and I’ve wondered whether or not this is a distraction for me.

And so I moved on from that article to an article over at www.thedailybeast.com: How I Write: James McBride, The New National Book Award Winner For Fiction.

Given that I’m writing for my blog, I’m always curious what other writers have to say about their methods and practices when it comes to putting ideas to paper.  And I come across this Q&A exchange (edited for brevity’s sake, emphasis is mine):

Q: Since you’re a musician, is there anything you like to listen to while writing?

A: No, I don’t listen to music when I write. I go through periods listening to specific types of music. Because I’m a musician, listening to music is…it’s a bit like work for me. A little bit. So I don’t listen to any music at all. I don’t mind cacophony when I write. I grew up in a house with a lot of kids, brothers and sisters. So I don’t mind a lot of talking, yelling, playing. I can tune most of that out.

So I just found it very interesting that I would find this article about whether listening to music while studying (or, by extension, working where the work is largely one of mental effort) is helpful or not, and then almost immediately find another article — purely by accident — in which the findings of the first article seem to be confirmed by someone else’s comments.

So, all you trained musicians out there: by virtue of your training, you have removed yourselves from the company of those who can enjoy listening to music that you like while you study.

Bummer.

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For bloglovin’.com

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

As a blog website “owner”, I get to see reports as to traffic at my site (which isn’t terrific, and I certainly don’t go out of my way to promote the thing), and just for fun I thought I’d grab a random visitor record and see what it led back to, if anything.

What it eventually led back to was www.bloglovin.com, a website that some people have used to replace their Google reader application.  I was surprised to find that they had links to my posts here, and that I have a whole 3 followers at the site.

Woo-hoo!

Anyway, in order to “claim” my blog on their site, I needed to create a post with the link you see up at the top of this one.  I don’t know how many blogs they link to, but just looking up the values “lds” or “mormon” comes up with a veritable plethora of hits (but not a “plethora of pinatas“).

I entered “Nibley” into their search box, and found a very interesting site maintained by (I believe) one of Hugh Nibley’s sons, and it’s all unpublished stuff by Hugh Nibley, and is pretty darned interesting if I do say so myself.

So, check out bloglovin.com and see what you can find.

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No more lacrosse, but there’s a musical upside

Here’s another instance of brain injury imparting new musical abilities.

Lachlan Connors, a student at Kent Denver High School, discovered his musical talent after suffering from concussions while playing lacrosse.  His doctors told him, after several concussions left him suffering from epileptic seizures and “mini-hallucinations” that contact sports were now a no-no.  So he took up music instead, and found that he was quite good at it.

The trick is, however, that prior to this, he had no musical talent whatsoever.  So says his mother:

According to his mother, Elsie Hamilton, Connors had displayed no musical talent before the accident. “I would say ‘Can’t you hear what’s next?’ with something like ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ or ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ and he’d say ‘No,’” she said.

For now, he plays (10 to 13 instruments, including Scottish and Irish bagpipes) solely by ear, although he’s being encouraged to learn to read music.  The epileptic seizures have ended, but apparently Frederic Chopin may have had a form of epilepsy called temporal lobe epilepsy, and Lachlan Connors thinks that maybe he and Chopin suffered from the same condition, and that it’s possible that the ailment contributed to their musical prowess.  Hard to prove, but who knows?

When God closes a lacrosse door, He opens a bagpipe window.  Or something like that.

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Da Vinci’s musical instrument is brought to life

Behold the viola organista, as designed by old LDV himself, and built today by Sławomir Zubrzycki.

Here’s the article about it, which also has the YouTube video linked above.

We can sample its sounds, and then duplicate it on a Mellotron!

When I took my one and only music theory class back at West Valley College in 1974, one of the students in the class, as a part of his final project, wrote a composition that he played on a Mellotron and recorded it, and then played it back for the class.  Back in the pre-synthesizer days.  I was somewhat jealous that my classmate had access to such a thing, but now, with musical composition software like Noteworthy Composer, I can do the same thing with the aid of a MIDI connector between my computer and the Yamaha Clavinova.  Do I ever really take much time to do so?  Nope.

Sad, sad, sad.

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