Da Weekend

Apr. 24th, 2017 08:24 am
hudebnik: (Default)
Saturday: [personal profile] shalmestere went to her vielle and viol lessons, while I did some yard work. Met her for lunch, came home for a nap, then drove to Poughkeepsie for a really good concert of 13th-14th-century music on the theme of Dante. Had a really good barbecue dinner in Poughkeepsie, then drove home and crashed in bed.

Sunday: woke late, made pancakes (for the first time on our new stove!), took Moongrrl for a walk in the park. [personal profile] shalmestere spent a few hours finding and/or arranging processional-sounding pieces to play on shawms for an upcoming SCA gig, while I did more yard work.

In a previous post, I lamented the finish of the new cabinets in our mid-renovation kitchen. Got an e-mail reply from the manufacturer, saying "the veneer is a multi-step process, and we don't recommend trying to change the finish." Which is exactly what one would expect them to say: they have nothing to gain, and considerable to lose, by "authorizing" us to refinish their cabinets. So the reply doesn't carry much informational content. However, I have some scraps of leftover cabinet material, and we experimented Sunday with sanding and staining it. Preliminary results: some of the pieces are made of real wood, and they stain reasonably well. Other pieces are plywood with a plasticky veneer, and neither sanding nor staining has much effect on them. Fortunately, most of the plywood parts are internal; the parts of the cabinets that face into the room are mostly real-wood.


Jan. 14th, 2017 06:35 am
hudebnik: (henry)
NYC early-music group TENET, which has traditionally centered its efforts around Monteverdi and his contemporaries, decided for this year to do a series of three concerts centered on Machaut: early (and predecessors), middle (and his well-known contemporary Anonymous), and late (and followers). Last night was the "middle" concert, and like the "early" concert a few months ago, it was extremely well done. Somewhat remarkably, none of the pieces on the program were Machaut's "greatest hits", such as "Douce Dame Jolie" or "Quant je suis mis au retour". And everything was held together beautifully by director Scott Metcalf's spoken commentary, which touched both the intellect and the heart.

The concert was in a tiny art-gallery space in the Village, seating maybe forty people, so they did two shows back to back (7:00 and 9:00), which I think were both sold out. We bought tickets too late to get the 7:00 seating, so we went to the 9:00, getting to bed after midnight.

I should have more to say about this concert, but I need to feed the dogs.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
We had been considering going to an SCA event this weekend, but it didn't work out for various reasons. So the night before last, [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere said "Wasn't there a concert that looked good but we couldn't get to because we'd be on our way to the event?" She looked on various web sites and discovered a TENET concert of Ars Antiqua and Ars Nova music, in two shows September 30. So yesterday morning she made some phone calls and nabbed two tickets to the early show.

It turns out that TENET is doing a series of three concerts this year focused on Machaut. This one started with Machaut's predecessors Adam de la Halle and Philippe de Vitry, continuing through Machaut's "early period" (i.e. pieces included in mss. dated around 1350); the second, in January, will be "middle period" Machaut and contemporaries; and the third, in May, will be late Machaut and "the next generation" (presumably Ars Subtilior, perhaps as far as Dufay). All three concerts will be in the same small performance space (seats about 40-50) on 13th Street.

I think this is the earliest repertoire we've heard TENET do: I tend to associate them with 17th-century music. And indeed, they're doing Monteverdi, J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, and Gesualdo this year, in addition to the Machaut cycle. But (with a somewhat different choice of personnel and instruments) they did a terrific job of it. Music director Scott Metcalf gave an informal but informative overview of Machaut's life and work, as well as controversies and trends in performance practice of this music, and he played a pretty mean vielle (and occasionally harp). Debora Nagy wrote neat instrumental arrangements of some of the songs, and played either doucaine, on untexted tenor lines against two voices, or Boudreau stick recorders (just like the ones we just bought) on noodly upper lines in all-instrumental pieces. Charlie Weaver, whom we met in the "Machaut Project" at our first Amherst workshop and who is often seen around town with a theorbo longer than he is, played a more reasonable-scale plectrum lute. Singers Jolle Greenleaf, Luthien Brackett, Owen McIntosh, and Jason McStoots, in various combinations, took the texted lines and sometimes vocalized on untexted lines, blending well while remaining distinct enough to make out what their disparate lines were doing. We were particularly impressed with Luthien Brackett's clear, unfussy alto voice.

After the concert, we stopped for ice cream and were still home by 10 PM, which is pretty nice.

Now the weekend starts. I think it'll be largely a cleaning-and-home-improvement weekend: our dishwasher just died, and at thirty years old it's apparently irreparable, so it needs to be replaced. But we were planning a complete kitchen renovation some time in the coming year, and it seems silly to install a new dishwasher just before the renovation, so the renovation may have moved way up on the urgency scale. We'll probably see a movie or two in between house-related errands.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
A few days ago I heard about a workshop on barbershop-quartet arranging, led by a guy named David Wright (who I gather is a macher in the barbershop world, and was influential in broadening the scope of allowable barbershop music beyond pieces written in the 1920's and 1930's). It was too late to sign up for the advanced morning master class (and I didn't have a barbershop arrangement to bring in anyway), but I attended the less-advanced afternoon class, which was a lot of fun. Three hours of music-theory geekery, including discussion of just intonation, Pythagorean commas, the distinguishing characteristics of barbershop harmony, the palette of typical chords used in barbershop, which traditional rules of voice-leading barbershop obeys and which it cheerfully ignores, etc. Wright's day job is as a math professor, so his explanations were exactly in the right language to speak to me (and I think made sense to the rest of the twenty-odd people in the workshop too). And to make it all concrete, he brought up "Happy Birthday" in Finale on his laptop and we collaboratively worked out a four-part barbershop arrangement, arguing measure by measure and note by note over different possible choices.

Now, I'm not really a member of the barbershop world: I've sung about four barbershop pieces in my life, and have never actually arranged for barbershop. But I've arranged in late-medieval-early-Renaissance style, which has certain similarities, most notably that the "melody" is usually in the middle of the texture rather than on top (called "lead" in barbershop and "tenor" in medieval), and that the other middle part (called "baritone" in barbershop and "contratenor" in medieval) tends to get the weird notes left over, and therefore makes no sense on its own. And hey, vocal harmony is vocal harmony. If it sounds good, it is good.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
So, four days after attending Will McLean's funeral, we attended the memorial service for Tom Zajac, a well-known and beloved fixture in the professional early-music world. And almost every professional early-musician in the Northeast (plus a few from farther away) was there, along with a lot of regular workshop-and-concert attendees like us. After two hours of alternating music and testimonials at St John the Divine, most of the attendees formed a procession, led by seven bagpipers (one in a wheelchair) and with a police escort to clear the intersections, to a pub several blocks away for the reception.

At both of these memorials, everyone talked about how extraordinarily warm, gentle, welcoming, patient, goofy, and talented the deceased was, before cancer took him in his late fifties.

I'm in my early fifties. Maybe I'd better try not to be warm, gentle, welcoming, patient, goofy, and talented....

Da Weekend

Nov. 3rd, 2015 06:35 am
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Friday afternoon [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere rented a car for the weekend, ours being MIA for a week and a half. We know it was ticketed for being in a no-parking zone; we suspect a "predatory tow company" that's legally authorized to tow vehicles that have tickets on the windshield, but which illegally towed it to a chop shop rather than to the NYPD tow pound. Anyway, we then drove to [livejournal.com profile] isabeau_lark's house to rehearse for Saturday's performance.

Saturday we drove to the Philadelphia area for Will McLean's funeral. Funerals are a place where all the different "boxes" of a person's life intersect: we knew a fair number of the people in the "SCA and living history" box (although some we had never seen in suits before), had met a few of the people in the "family" box, and have no idea what the other boxes were. Anyway, the funeral was held in the chapel (the original church building) of an Episcopal church, and we (i.e. me, [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere, [livejournal.com profile] isabeau_lark, and Beth/Deonna) had contracted to provide some music during the service. After the Old Testament reading we played F. Andris's deploration on the death of Guillaume de Machaut, "Armes, amours", on recorders, and as a recessional we did a mash-up of Josquin's and Morton's takes on "L'Homme Armee", on shawms. Both pieces went reasonably well, considering we had one rehearsal with all personnel, and I think they contributed to the atmosphere.

We took advantage of having a car to do some grocery shopping and to eat out, thus getting home after most of the trick-or-treaters (whom we really weren't prepared to entertain, having not planned to be home this weekend at all).

Sunday was spent on household maintenance and more car-based shopping.

Next big commitment: Musicians' Day, which promises to have a bunch of good music classes, good food, and good socializing at a site overlooking a beautiful forest-girded lake. Be there or be square-note!
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Tom Zajac, a mainstay of the U.S. medieval-music community, succumbed to a brain tumor a day or two ago, at the age of ... I don't know, mid-fifties? He was not only an excellent musician and teacher, but one of the warmest, most welcoming and encouraging people I know.
hudebnik: (devil duck)
I was at an all-day music-notation class.  In the interest of cultural inclusiveness, it covered not only medieval European music notation but Klingon music notation as well; fortunately, there was a remarkable amount of similarity between the two.  Klingon music notation never developed the bar-line, for example, but bar-lines weren't common in European music either until the 17th century.  And the staves and note shapes were surprisingly similar.

Unlike most music-notation classes I've attended, this one had a written final exam, which included examples in both 15th-century-European and Klingon (can you tell which is which, can you transcribe them into modern European notation, etc.)
hudebnik: (devil duck)
Cut for pictures )

I hope that was enlightening and entertaining....


Jun. 11th, 2013 05:54 pm
hudebnik: (Default)

Got up early, packed the car, and drove to Boston, making our first concert with 10 minutes to spare. The Peabody Consort, made up of 5 students and 2 faculty, did a program centered on Henry VIII: himself, his daughter and grand-nephew, his in-laws, and the Sephardim who fled said in-laws for his court. Two excellent singers who did some good romantic-drama schtick, a kick-ass viol player (who as [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere points out is also decorative, and a sophomore in college), an excellent recorder player, an excellent lute/oud player, each given his/her opportunity to shine within a coherent program.

Then we walked a rapid mile to the next concert, by Meravelha: this program was a variety of 12th-15th-century pieces assembled to tell a "boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, girl becomes nun" story, so we were looking forward to it. Some pieces worked better than others: they had two sopranos, a mezzo, and a bass-baritone, and I think the sopranos won the vote on where to pitch things, so some of the pieces sounded a little shrill. They did some good Asteria-style romantic "business": for example, at the "boy gets girl" point, they took hands and sat silently together, her head on his shoulder, while the other musicians did the next number, after which the remaining singer (Cathy Stein, whom we know from Amherst) tapped the "girl" and gave her an "it's time to go" nod, leading into "Adieu ces bons vins", and this worked nicely.

Anyway, then we walked the mile back to the previous venue to hear the University of North Texas collegium. We hadn't planned to go to this concert, as it was pretty Baroque, but there was a big gap in our schedule, and we're glad we did: the ensemble of fifty-odd students was quite tight and polished, there were several excellent soloists (a traverso and several singers), and several sackbuts and natural-trumpets (which get a full scale by having four holes along the bore).

Then off to Newbury St for food.

hudebnik: (Default)
I was transcribing this incredible 5-part piece (in fact, the only known piece) by the 14th-century composer Philippe Royllart, and decided to see what was known about him. Hey, Google! Among the hits:

"Get Philippe Royllart setlists - view them, share them, discuss them with other Philippe Royllart fans for free on setlist.fm!"

Yahoo! Music tells me with chagrin:
"No videos found for this artist... No upcoming concerts found for this artist..."
but helpfully offers to "Play Philippe Royllart artist radio"

Meanwhile, last.fm offers to "Send Philippe Royllart ringtones to cell".

Guess I'll have to actually stand up and walk to the other side of the room to look at the Groves Dictionary....

OK, so maybe it's not really a 5-part piece. One manuscript has three parts and another has four, overlapping by two. Which makes five parts in all, but it's not clear that they were ever all supposed to be performed together.

And after hours of Finale-work, I've managed to compress the 7-page edition from CMM down to a much more practical... 7 pages! It wasn't a total waste, though, as I also took out the bar lines and the ties so it looks a little cleaner and more like medieval notation.
hudebnik: (Default)

So, the Pilgrimage to Santiago del Parque Central was better in concept than in execution. They handed out lit candles during rehearsal, essentially all of which had blown out by the time we started walking. The director had a bullhorn to address the crowd, but couldn't remember to keep it close to his mouth so we kept losing the last half of every sentence. He directed (in slow quarter notes) the beginning of each piece, but sorta went AWOL (or at least invisible) once it started, which is a problem when you have a hundred singers who just met one another and are strung out over a distance of forty yards. So for most of the way, there were at least three or four separate clusters of singers, each at a slightly different tempo and therefore at a different point in the music, each cluster unable to hear the others.

But it was an interesting exercise. The most musically-rewarding part was when we finished up at St John the Divine and sang "Stella Splendens", "Mariam Matrem", and "Splendens Ceptigera" in that enormous echoey space.


Jun. 9th, 2011 12:16 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
So last night [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere and I went into Manhattan to hear this concert. The second half of the program was Dufay, which is usually technically difficult but tuneful and catchy.

The first half was... [OMG] the Turin manuscript (Torino J.II.9), a collection of hundreds of pieces of music from late 14th-century Cyprus, brought to Italy in 1413. [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere and I have played a few of the pieces, and my medieval-notation class has read a few of them in facsimile. They're devilishly difficult, full of bizarre rhythms and hockets (sixteen of the pieces are recorded, superbly, on this album). This is brave, dangerous stuff to put on a concert program: much of the time it felt like they were hanging onto the edge of a cliff by their fingertips, and a few times they lost the beat for a few seconds, but it never quite fell apart, and was mostly quite musical and enjoyable.
hudebnik: (Default)
1) Got a letter from the IRS yesterday. Not the "Guess what, we're auditing your return" letter, but "Guess what, you missed a credit and we owe you $xxx" letter. The good kind of letter from the IRS. (If any of you likewise failed to notice the Making Work Pay credit, go look it up. It's worth $400/individual or $800/couple for most middle-class Americans. This has been a public service announcement.)

2) Went yesterday to inspect a cargo trailer we read about on Craigslist. We seem to be buying it, in hopes of being able to
a) pack more cool furniture, instruments, etc. for SCA events and living-history shows, and
b) pack for said events in advance rather than after work on Friday, so we can get on the road faster.
I'm not sure whether we should decorate it with Gothic tracery and/or a Latin motto around the top....

3) Got an e-mail today inviting me to join AARP. Seriously, folks, I'm 46 years old; isn't that jumping the gun a bit?

4) I think we've finished recording and selecting tracks for [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere's audition CD. The bathroom will no longer be a recording studio.

5) I have a bunch of homework to grade, and I need to write three final exams, in the next week.

6) Still don't know where we're going for vacation in June: it was going to be somewhere in Europe, but we're not sure the volcano will let us. We might end up in California. Or maybe Europe after all.

Da Weekend

Sep. 17th, 2007 06:03 pm
hudebnik: (Default)
So... Friday afternoon we took the Things to the sitter, packed the car, and drove to Crossroads at Canterbury, the Chaucer-themed SCA event we've been looking forward to for a year. After that build-up, it couldn't possibly live up to expectations, but overall it was quite a good event, and some parts were incredible.

It was of course burdened by the addition of the Kingdom Rattan Champions' tourney, which predictably brought in a lot of people who had no interest in the theme of the event... but on the other hand, their presence covered the site rental, and left the organizers with less to worry about financially, so I shouldn't complain.

Blow-by-blow account of the event )
hudebnik: (teacher-mode)
OK, so trains are more comfortable and more environmentally friendly and more scenic and almost as fast and all that... but I didn't come home by train. I was to be in a committee meeting until 4 PM and needed to catch a train at 4:35, so on Saturday morning I asked the hotel clerk for the number of a taxi company. I called to arrange the trip, and was told "I'm sorry, we don't run on weekends." <arlo>Now I had never heard of a taxi company closed on weekends, and with tears in my eyes</arlo> I went back to the hotel clerk to ask for another taxi. I called to arrange the trip, and was told "Hi, you've reached XYZ Taxi. I can't answer the phone right now, but if you leave a message...." So I begged a ride from one of the other people at the committee meeting. On the way to his car, I realized I had left my jacket in the hotel room, but decided to abandon it rather than miss the last train of the day. And in fact I got to the train station at about 4:25. Nobody else was in the waiting room, which seemed odd... until the ticket agent explained that the 4:25 train doesn't run on Saturdays, and I had a reservation on the 4:25 train on Sunday. I would have shown them my ticket, but (a) it wouldn't have made the train come any sooner, and (b) my ticket was in my jacket, still in the hotel room, twenty minutes' drive away. So I walked about eight blocks to the bus station, through the sort of neighborhood that bus and train stations are usually in, and lucked into a bus to NYC only 45 minutes later. It wasn't as comfortable, and I got home at 1 AM rather than midnight as planned, and I still don't have my jacket, nor a refund on the unused train ticket, but I'm home.

My talk was scheduled for 8:30 Saturday morning. I had given much the same talk at a previous conference, also at 8:30 AM, to an audience of three... so I wasn't holding out much hope for this talk. But we had 15-20 people in the audience, which I won't complain about. My co-presenter and I hadn't found time to really discuss what we were saying until we got to the conference on Friday and started trying to merge her PowerPoint slides with mine in some kind of coherent way. By Friday night I had 98 slides for a 75-minute talk, a recipe for disaster. I talked through it in my hotel room in 73:51, but assumed that things would take longer in performance. Saturday morning co-presenter suggested I do most of the talking and she would pipe up from time to time with added comments, which sounded OK to me. Except that in practice, all of her added comments were things that would have showed up two slides later anyway, and she went on longer than I would have, and she persuaded me against my better judgment to work through a cool example, and... we got to about slide 70 by the end of the 75 minutes. I fast-forwarded to the final, "For More Information" slide, thanked the audience for listening, and got out. But from comments after the talk, I think people got the essential ideas, and some are interested in learning more.

One of the keynote talks was by a Famous Academic who's been teaching computer science since I was born. The first statement on his first slide said "If you're passionate about what you teach, it doesn't matter how you teach it; the students will get it." To which my immediate reaction was "And if you show enough resolve and confidence in invading Iraq, it doesn't matter how you carry out the invasion or the occupation; the result will be a stable, US-friendly democracy. And when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true." Now, I'll grant that a passionate teacher is more interesting than an uninterested one, and passion is infectious... but I will not grant that it's a sufficient condition for effective learning. I have to believe that in the real world, there are better and worse ways to explain the same subject.

Although I heard a talk a few years ago by a guy from the government agency in charge of research on education. He mentioned something called the What Works Clearinghouse, a collection of educational practices and interventions that have been proven (with statistical significance) to make a difference in learning, and he added "it's a very small database." Apparently in educational research there are so many uncontrollable random variables floating around that it's almost impossible to show (with statistical significance) that anything -- passion, textbook, order of topics, classroom management, homework, teacher expertise, etc. -- reliably makes a difference. Which makes one wonder why we bother putting students through schools of education, why we bother writing new textbooks, why we bother rating professors, ....

Anyway, I got home at 1 AM on Sunday, <arlo>went to bed and didn't get up 'til the same morning</arlo>. [livejournal.com profile] shalmestere and I had some chocolate-chip pancakes, went to the Cloisters and saw Ben Bagby's Beowulf performance (for about the sixth time). He had some kind of respiratory infection, so he cut things short, stopping at Grendel's death after "only" 85 minutes of gripping solo performance in Old English, from memory, accompanying himself on a Sutton Hoo lyre. ([livejournal.com profile] hlinspjalda will point out some shaky historical grounds of the reconstruction, both of the lyre and of Bagby's performance practice, but it's an incredible show anyway.)


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