Upcoming Performances for Summer 2012

The SF Choral Artists, conducted by Magen Solomon, will give the world premiere of my very short (and very, very silly) a cappella madrigal Ducks in the Garden, which was composed in 1991. Details…

July 27 – Kodály Summer Institute, Holy Names University, Oakland

The chorus of the Kodály Summer Institute Chorus, conducted by visiting professor Judit Hartyányi, will give the premiere of a new, commissioned work.  The a cappella piece is based on John Milton’s poem “Surge, age surge“.  (Did you know he’d written in Latin?  I didn’t.)

August 5 – HellHot Festival, Hong Kong

Details are sketchy, but my string quartet City Walks will be performed at this summer’s HellHot festival in Hong Kong. (Last year’s info still on that site.)

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Sondheim, Shakespeare and Andy Dick

Two items:

  1. Am I the only one who didn’t know that Stephen Sondheim composed incidental music for the Public Theater’s current production of King Lear with Kevin Kline. (Thanks for the tip, Mom!)
  2. Sondheim on The SimpsonsSet your Tivo! Sondheim has a cameo in this Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons. It’s possible there’s something wrong with a world in which Stephen Sondheim and Andy Dick are on the same list of credits.
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The Names of Things

Frank Pesci raised an interesting question on his interesting blog today. I wanted to comment, but his site doesn’t allow comments from non-“Blogger”-ers. The basic question is:

Why is “do”, “C.” Meaning, why has the default understanding of the solfege syllable “do” become synonymous with the English character “C” (and not “A”)?

And some related points are:

A few things need to be sorted out before we begin. First is the fact that only English speaking countries use the English alphabet (A through G with accidentals) to delineate pitches. Next, we will forego the initial usage of Guido of Arezzo’s system of, essentially, movable “ut,” and focus on the common acceptance of the fixed “do” system, with “do” corresponding to the note associated with the English letter “C.”

First, a correction: It’s not true that only English speaking countries use letter names for pitches. They do so in Germany and in Central/Eastern Europe as well. You may sometimes see “B” for what we call “B Flat” and “H” for what we call “B”.

As for the main question, I don’t have all the answers, but I suspect it has something to do with the letter names system being based on the minor scale (in movable do, the minor scale starts on “la”). If we equate “la” to “A”, the relative major is “C”, or “do”. There’s no real significance to the letter “C”, and the answer lies not in fixed “do”, but actually in movable “do”. So, whereas Guido d’Arezzo’s system of syllables uses the major scale as a basis (do [ut], re, mi, etc.), letter names use the minor scale.

I’m no musicologist; this is just a guess. Please comment if you have a more thorough explanation.

By the way, the origin of those solfege syllables is explained pretty well here.

If you know Frank, please pass this along. Meanwhile, I’m adding him to “Other Blogs”.

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To Mutual Admiration

It’s been a while since I’ve added a new blog to the set of feeds that I monitor regularly, and I almost never add anything new to my “Other Blogs” list (see the flyout menu to the left). Recently I added Red Black Window the blog of composer and Renaissance man Roger Bourland, who may be the most like-minded music blogger I’ve encountered so far.

For one thing, Roger shares my interest in the study or non-“classical” music, and we’ve both been caught analysing 60’s rock, only he’s a lot better at it. Here’s a post I wish I’d written. I wish I had time to piece together exactly what he’s up to, but there are several posts where he appears to be giving composition lessons to Rufus Wainwright, about whose music he is now preparing a book.

I’ve only scratched the surface. Please also take a look at Roger’s “traditional” web site, which is a work of art in itself (you’ll need your Flash plugin in working order). Having spent some time in the “Listening Area” there, I can say that he and I are like-minded aesthetically as well as, uh, bloguetically.

P.S. – Roger and I also share views on botanical-infused spirits.

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