Thursday, August 31, 2017

Spam Roundup August, 2017

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

Say What? 

 - Definitely imagine that which you stated. Your favourite reason seemed to be on the web the easiest thing to keep in mind of. I say to you, I definitely get irked whilst other people consider concerns that they plainly don't recognize about. [Yes, We must all consider concerns.]

 - When some one searches for his vital thing therefore he/she wishes to be available in that detail, thus that thing is maintained over here. p[The what over where?]

 - Plenty of helpful information here. I am sending it to a few buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious.  [We should all share the delicious.]

Yet, it is actually Sex Chant quite charming. Most Quakers start to talk about at work? [I'm not sure I want to imagine Quaker sex chants...]


"Lumbering along" keeps on going

Without a doubt, The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along remains a prime post for spambots. Not sure what the attraction is in this vintage 1960s Japanese tin friction toy. Even after I read the comments.

 - Thanks for a marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author. [Wait -- *might be*?!]

 - I'm gone to inform my little brother, that he should also go to see this blog on regular basis to take updated from hottest gossip. [Oh yes, this post full of gossipy hotness.]

 - It's not my first time to pay a quick visit this web site. [And not your first rodeo either, I presume.]

This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! finally, I have something which helped me. [Your comment was... how do you say it? Irrelevant!!]

Thanks for sharing 

Once you find a winning formula, why mess with success? 

Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There's a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.

Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group? There's a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content.

That's all for this month. Share this post with your Twitter group, your Zynga group, or even your peer group! After all, I might be a great author.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

László Lajtha Orchestral Works, Vol. 3 - Darkness and Light

I somehow missed the original release of this László Lajtha series on Marco Polo. So I'm glad for another opportunity to discover this Hungarian composers' music through the Naxos reissues.

Volume 3 continues the traversal through Lajtha's symphonies with Nos. 3 and 4.

In 1947 Lajtha went to England to work on a British movie with Austro-Hungarian director Georg Hoellering. The production was T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. Lajtha reused much of the thematic material for his third symphony, completed in 1948.

The symphony retains much of the film's (and original story's) atmosphere. A solo clarinet opens the work with an elegiac theme. Gradually the orchestra enters with ominous foreboding, inexorably building towards the finale.

The fourth symphony, written three years later, has an entirely different character. Titled "Spring," this is a light-hearted work that's full of energy. Lajtha was an ethnomusicologist as well as a composer. Folk elements abound in this work, coming to the fore in the last movement.

Also included is Lajtha's music for a 1943 ballet. Lajtha reworked the music into his Suite No. 2 for orchestra. The ballet lampooned fascist dictators, and that sharp humor comes through in Lajtha's suite. The angular music reminds me somewhat of Janacek crossed with Prokofiev.

Nicolás Pasquet and the Pécs Symphony Orchestra have a lock on this material. The ensemble has an expansive sound that gives Lajtha's music real emotional weight. Glad I didn't miss these recordings the second time around.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 3
Symphony No. 4, "Spring", Op. 52; Suite, No. 2, Op. 38; Symphony No. 3, Op. 45
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor 
Naxos 8.573646

Monday, August 28, 2017

Diabelli Project 161 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week's sketch is another for woodwind quintet. The unifying elements in this are the sixteenth/dotted eighth rhythm, and the gapped runs up and down. I also really like the tutti chords that open this sketch. If I were to expand this, I'd develop that thought further.

This is the sixth woodwind quintet sketch I'm written for this series. I think it's time to see if some of these pieces will join together.




As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 063 - Tender

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

063. Tender

This is the second car in the train that Line Mar shows on their box. In the 1930s, when this set was sold, steam locomotives were the standard. Such locomotives carried their fuel supply behind them. The coal tender was often referred to as just the tender, as it is in this instruction sheet.

The tender was a really simple build. And it was also one where reality was at odds with the fantasy illustration. The dowels holding the bumpers are shown resting on the axles, nicely parallel to the bottom of the tender. They don't quite line up that way, causing the dowels to droop down a little.

The Line Mar Train

063 - The Tender

Thursday, August 24, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #USclassics Tweets Annotated - Part 4

#USclassics

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. For July 2017, I used the theme #USclassics, and presented an entire month of American composers with examples of their music.

Twitter's 140 character limit constrained my tweets to the composer's name, the title of the work, links, and hashtags. Below is an annotated list of the #USclassics composers I featured the last week in July, finishing the series. Links to the entire month's composers are at the bottom of this post.


Edmond Dédé (1827–1903)

- Edmond Dédé was a free-born Creole in New Orleans. Though a prodigy both as a composer and a violinist, Dédé had to leave the States in order to have a career. Dédé eventually settled in Paris in the 1850s and studied at the Paris Conservatoire. He conducted the Bordeaux Théâtre l'Alcazar for almost three decades and toured as a concert violinist. Dédé's compositions were frequently performed in Europe. His son Eugene Arcade Dédé was also a successful composer.



Arthur Foote (1853–1937)

- Arthur Foote was a composer and organist who remained in Massachusetts for most of his professional career. He was part of the Boston Six (along with Amy Beach, George Whitefield Chadwick, Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, and Horatio Parker). Foote was also one of the founders of the American Guild of Organists. His style shows influences of Brahms and Wagner. Most of Foote's output was chamber music, and it was in this genre that he excelled. Foote's Piano Quintet and Piano Quartet are his most frequently performed works.

George Whitefield Chadwick (1854–1931)

- George Chadwick was another member of the Boston Six. He studied in Europe with Carl Reinecke and Joseph Rheinberger. Chadwick's music, though steeped in the language of European romanticism, retained an American flavor. Chadwick wrote symphonies, operas, and other large-scale works. His string quartets, especially his fourth, remain his best-known works.



George Templeton Strong (1856–1948)

- George Strong was born in New York City and studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. He taught briefly at the New England Conservatory of Music. Although Strong permanently moved to Switzerland in 1897 he's still considered an American -- rather than Swiss -- composer. Strong wrote in a late-romantic style. He was also a talented artist, with a 30-year career as a serious painter.

Arthur Farwell (1872–1952)

- Arthur Farwell graduated from MIT in 1893 as an engineer but soon turned to music. He studied with Engelbert Humperdinck in Berlin. Farwell returned to the States in 1899. He was a leader in the American Indianist movement. The Indianists were white composers using Native American melodies and culture in their own work. Farwell established Wa-Wan press to publish Indianist works. He did most of the lithography, music engraving and cover designs for his publications. Farwell's catalog includes an extensive amount of choral, chamber and orchestral music, of which Native American-inspired compositions is only a part. Roy Harris and Bernard Rogers are among his students.



Marion Bauer (1882–1955)

- Like many American composers, Marion Bauer studied with Nadia Boulanger. She was the first female faculty member of NYU's music department. She was a contemporary and colleague of Aaron Copland. Milton Babbitt was one of her many students. Bauer helped found the American Music Center and the American Composer's Alliance. Bauer wrote over 160 works, most using some form of extended tonality.

Jan Bach (born 1937)

- Jan Bach studied with Aaron Copland and Thea Musgrave. A professional horn player, Bach is best known for his works for horn (especially his Horn Concerto). Bach's music often has a wry humor to it. Bach has written two operas, several orchestral works, and a substantial amount of chamber music (a good portion featuring brass instruments).



Gregory Short (1938–1999)

- Gregory Short was born on the Yakima Indian Reservation. He spent most of his professional life in Washington State. Short was a pianist and composer and graduated from Julliard and the University of Oregon. Short's compositions often incorporated music and cultural themes of the Pacific Northwest Native Americans. Short wrote over 300 works. His catalog includes two piano concertos, and several orchestral tone poems, including the Northwest Tetralogy for Orchestra.

Margaret Brouwer (born 1940)

- A student of George Crumb and Donald Erb, Margaret Brouwer writes music that's both accessible and other-worldly. She's known for her engaging melodies, even in works that challenge the listener. Brouwer founded the Blue Streak Ensemble to perform music of living composers. She also organized the "Music by the Lake" contemporary music concert series. Brouwer's career took off in the 21st Century with several commissions for major works. Her Percussion Concerto, Viola Concerto and Violin Concerto all date from this period.



Kenneth Fuchs (born 1956)

- Kenneth Fuchs studied with Milton Babbitt, David Diamond, and Vincent Persichetti. Fuchs writes in a relaxed tonal style. Rhythmic and textural changes usually provide his music's forward motion as opposed to harmonic progression. Fuchs is best known for his orchestral works, which are frequently performed throughout the world.

Annotated List for Week 1: Charles Theodor Pachelbel through Roger Zare
Annotated List for Week 2: Benjamin Carr through Roger Boureland
Annotated List for Week 3: William Billings through Adrienne Albert

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Piffarro Journeys Back Before Bach

Back Before Bach delivers on its promise. Piffaro surveys the music of 16th Century Germany, showing the foundation upon which Bach would build.

Piffaro explores seven different themes. The tracks for each theme moves in chronological order. This makes it easy to hear how each tune develops. In some cases, also making the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque.

The hymn tune "Christ is erstanden," for example, is first heard in a 1480 setting. Then it's in one by Heinrich Isaac, followed by 1550s settings by Johann Walther. The cycle continues with the tune used in a Michael Praetorius chorale. It ends with an instrumental arrangement of Bach's four-part chorale setting.

As always, Piffaro plays with energy and imagination. These are first and foremost engaging musical performances. And they happen to have some pretty solid musicological research backing them up.

Highly recommended for listeners (like me) who like early music with historical context. Also highly recommended for listeners who enjoy a well-programmed and well-executed recording.


Back Before Bach
Musical Journeys
Includes music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Heinrich Isaac, Michael Pretorius, and Johann Walther 
Piffaro
Navona Records

Friday, August 18, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 062 - Locomotive

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

062. Locomotive


This build begins a mini-series. Models nos. 62-67 form a train. It features a locomotive, coal tender, and several railroad cars. The set is prominently featured in the instruction booklet.
That illustration greatly over promises.

First, there's no railroad track. The models use the same unflanged wooden discs as the other wheeled vehicles. Second, the models are nowhere near as big as the illustration suggests. And third -- you can't build the entire train with just one set.

Each car uses the biggest set piece for its chassis. And there's only one in the set.

And the problems don't stop with the entire train.

The locomotive can't be built quite as depicted -- either in the cover art or the instruction sheet versions. In the cover art, the boiler is made up of a three-hole piece followed by a one-hole piece. In the instruction sheet, those two pieces are reversed.

The dowel holding the cab to the frame is blocked by the dowel serving as the rear axle. It can't go down any further. And the shorter dowel doesn't reach down far enough to secure the cab to the frame.

The smoke stack and boiler domes look pretty tall in the illustrations. That's because they're shown using the thick wooden discs stacked on the dowels. But the set only comes with four such discs, and they're needed for the wheels.

As you can see, the thinner fiberboard discs don't quite have the same effect.

The locomotive, as depicted in the instruction sheet.


The locomotive, as shown in the cover art for the box.

The Line Mar Train

062 - The Locomotive

Thursday, August 17, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #USclassics Tweets Annotated - Part 3

#USclassics 

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. For July 2017, I used the theme #USclassics and presented an entire month of American composers with examples of their music.

Twitter only allows 140 characters, pretty much limiting my tweets to the composer's name, the title of the work, links, and hashtags. Below is an annotated list of those posts for the third week of July, providing a little more background for each composer.


William Billings (1746–1800)

- William Billings was one of the earliest choral composers in America. Center in New England, Billings wrote and published hundreds of hymns and anthems. The works were written for amateur choirs of limited ability, yet show great originality and diversity.Billings is also credited with writing some of America's earliest Christmas carols, such as "Judea" and "Shiloh."

Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781–1861)

- Anthony Heinrich is considered the first American full-time composer. Originally from Bohemia, Heinrich ran a successful international business. The Napoleonic Wars destroyed his business and his fortune. In 1810 he was stranded in the US virtually penniless. It was then that Heinrich turned to his avocation. Heinrich became a professional violinist, conductor, and composer.

His music is highly programmatic and owes more to American traditions than European. Nevertheless, he's credited with conducting the second American performance of a Beethoven symphony in 1817, and founding the New York Philharmonic Society in 1842 (which would become the New York Philharmonic).



George Frederick Bristow (1825–1898)

- The son of a renowned conductor and pianist, George Bristow received a first-rate musical education. He joined the New Your Philharmonic Society Orchestra as a violinist at 17 and became concertmaster at 25. Bristow thought that American classical music should be firmly rooted in American culture. Works such as the Rip van Winkle cantata, The Pioneer a Grand Cantata, The Great Republic, and the Niagra Symphony show Bristow's interest in American themes.

John Knowles Paine (1839–1906)

- John Paine was a talented organist and composer credited with a number of firsts. He was the first composer born in American to achieve international recognition. He was a founder of the American Guild of Organists, an organization still active today. Paine was Harvard's first organist and choirmaster, and shortly became America's first music professor. He's credited with developing the curriculum upon which Harvard's Department of Music was founded (and which would become the model for music departments in American higher education institutions).

Paine was also part of the highly influential Boston Six (along with Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Edward MacDowell, George Chadwick, and Horatio Parker). He wrote two symphonies, as well as many organ and choral works. Paine's Mass in D minor established his international reputation when it premiered in Berlin.



Arthur H. Bird (1856–1923)

- Arthur Bird was originally from Massachusetts, and spent several years studying and working in Europe as a correspondent for the Chicago "Musical Leader." During that time, he spent a year studying with Franz Liszt. Bird's work includes several orchestral works, including a symphony. He also wrote music for wind chamber ensembles (as opposed to concert or marching bands). Bird's music was popular in Germany, although seldom performed in the United States.

Edward Burlingame Hill (1872–1960)

- Edward Hill, when not composing, spent most of his professional career teaching at Harvard. He studied with John Knowles Paine, George Whitefield Chadwick, and Charles Marie Widor. Hill incorporated American elements into his music, including jazz. Although he wrote a sizable catalog of music, his legacy primarily rests in the students he taught and inspired: Leonard Bernstein, Elliott Carter, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and Virgil Thomson (among others).



John J. Becker (1886–1961)

- John Becker was an important figure in American music after the First World War. As a conductor, he premiered works by his friend Charles Ives, as well as Carl Ruggles and Wallingford Reger. He was an editor for Henry Cowell's New Music Quarterly and was an administrator of the Federal Music Project during the Depression. Becker's music was considered part of the "ultramodern school" (along with Ives, Ruggles, Cowell, and Riegger).

Louise Talma (1906–1996)

- Based in New York City, Louise Talma received degrees from Juilliard, NYU, and Columbia. She studied with Nadia Boulanger every summer for 13 years and originally wrote in a neoclassical style. In the 1950s she experimented with twelve tone technique, but eventually returned to tonal composition near the near the end of her life.

Talma's career is marked with several significant firsts. She was the first woman to be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters; win a Sibelius medal for composition; have a full-scale opera performed in Germany; receive two Guggenheim Fellowships. And she was the first American to teach at Fontainebleau.



Easley Blackwood, Jr. (born 1933)

- Easley Blackwood studied with Olivier Messiaen, Paul Hindemith, and Nadia Boulanger. He's known for his exploration of tonality in all aspects. Blackwood's written works with various non-traditional tuning systems. 12-tone rows, and microtonal tunings. Blackwood's also the author of a seminal work "The Structure of Recognizable Diatonic Tunings," still in use today.

Gloria Coates (born 1938)

- Gloria Coates is an American composer who's lived in Germany since 1969. Coates studied with Alexander Tcherepnin and Otto Luening and writes in a post-minimalist style. Her works often include canons, with atmospheric glissandi. Coates has written sixteen symphonies, as well as some important multi-media and theater works.

Adrienne Albert (born 1941)

- Adrienne Albert began her professional music career as an alto. She worked with composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Philip Glass, and Leonard Bernstein, who wrote for the special qualities of her voice. In the 1980s she transitioned from singing to conducting, and in the 1990s, to composing full-time (she had been writing music all her life). Albert writes in a lyrical post-tonal style that often has a lightness and playfulness to it.

Annotated List for Week 1: Charles Theodor Pachelbel through Roger Zare
Annotated List for Week 2: Benjamin Carr through Roger Bourland
Annotated List for Week 4: Edmond Dédé through Kevin Fuchs

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Arnold Rosner Chamber Music - Always a Pleasure

Another recording of Arnold Rosner's music is always welcome (in my opinion). Rosner was something of a musical outsider, much like Alan Hovhaness. Rosner wrote Hovhaness' entry in Groves and was an acknowledged authority on his music.

Like Hovhaness, Rosner wrote in a tonal language that was unconcerned with the conventions of traditional harmony. Hovhaness used Eastern modes, Rosner drew more from Western medieval and Renaissance traditions. Both lack the active forward motion implied in major and minor scales.

The chamber works collected here share many similarities. The modal melodies move in surprising and wonderful ways. Harmonies feature open fifths in parallel motion. There are false relations between voices. And yet these are works that could never have been written at any time before the 20th Century.

The works are all well-recorded and well-performed. I especially enjoyed Maxine Neuman's performance of the Danses a la Mode for Solo Cello. Her sensitive reading brings out subtle links between Rosner's motifs.

If you're a fan of Hovhaness, you should give Rosner a listen. If you're not a fan, Rosner's music deserves an audition. Each of his compositions is a world unto itself -- one that invites the listener in and tarry a while. It's an invitation I can't resist.

Arnold Rosner: Chamber Music
Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano, Op. 18
Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano, Op. 89
Danses a la Mode for Cello Solo, Op. 101
Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, Op. 121
Curtis Macomber, violin; Maxine Neuman, cello; David Richmond, bassoon; Margaret Kampmeir, Carson Cooman, piano
Toccata Classics TOCC0408



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Collecting - and Collecting Information Part 28

All of a sudden there seemed to be a lot of Shioji friction toy trucks appearing on the market. Over the last few weeks, I've shared what I've learned about the examples I own. But there's a lot that can be learned (and/or deduced) from just examining photos.

Recently two lots came up for sale on eBay. The one I passed on because of the cost; the second because it was outside of my field of interest. But only just.

Towing the line

I've found examples of Shioji using the same truck chassis for a variety of bodies: van, tanker, flatbed, and dumper.

Variations on a theme: five iterations of the Shioji truck.
This example is a tow truck, and it has some very interesting features. First, it's pretty easy to place in my Shioji timeline:
  • First generation: Rivet head hubcaps, flat chassis bottom, six securing tabs.
  • Second generation: Solid hubcaps (cheaper to make and install), rounded chassis bottom
  • Third generation: Four securing tabs instead of six
The tow truck is a first generation Shioji friction truck.
The six tabs securing the body to the chassis make this a first or second
generation vehicle.


The rivet head hubcaps make this a first generation vehicle. 
And note the crank's rubber cap. It's identical to the one used for the dump truck, which is also a first generation vehicle.


End of an era

The second eBay offering I passed on because, well, I don't buy broken toys. These trucks had plastic cabs, as well as metal parts from the earlier Shioji vehicles.

Around 1963 U.S. child safety regulations came into effect, addressing things like sharp edges on metal parts. That, plus the lower cost of injection-molded plastic spelled the end of the tinplate era. Plastic toys quickly became the norm. Which is what makes these examples so interesting -- they're a transition from metal to plastic.

In these models, Shioji replaced the stamped metal cab and frame with plastic one. Although the cab shape is different, it's made to fit the same metal parts of the old Shioji trucks.


The injection-mold cabs are new, but the metal bodies aren't.


The grille is identical, as are the tanker and covered flatbed bodies. I'm sure the next generation of these trucks (if there was one) were entirely made of plastic. The tanker was a third generation vehicle, probably the last before the transition. The covered flatbed was earlier.

Was Shioji trying to use up pieces of existing stock? It's possible.

And there's one more thing: note the opening in the chassis just behind the cab. That's where the crank's located on the metal dump truck.

The square notch behind the cab may have been necessary for
dump truck version.


The metal chassis is completely redesigned. It uses far less metal under the
cab than the original version. The tab only extends far enough to
go completely under the notch in the chassis.
The metal chassis holding the friction drive is much shorter than the original version. Yet it extends over that notch, probably to secure the crank mechanism.

I think this plastic chassis was designed to be all-purpose. And that suggests there might be a dump truck version of this plastic/metal hybrid. I wonder if the express and cattle truck bodies were also recycled?


Monday, August 14, 2017

Diabelli Project 160 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

Did I mention I'm working on a woodwind quintet -- and not just for this series? This is the fifth quintet sketch that popped out of my head for the Diabelli Project. Clearly, my subconscious is telling me something. I'll share the composition process once it starts moving along.

This particular sketch came from one simple concept: everybody doesn't have to play all the time. So I have two duos, with the clarinet coming in with what would be (if time hadn't run out) a lyrical solo.




As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 061 - Cannon

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

061. Cannon

When I first saw the illustration, I thought it was a movie camera. But according to the instruction sheet, it's a cannon. 

This was another model that was impossible to build as depicted. 

The long dowel holding the cannon together sticks out because the short dowel (my only other choice) can't span the 3-hole piece and secure it to the second piece. The dowel that the assembly turns on blocks the longer dowel, which is why so much of it is exposed. 

The other dowel (perhaps representing the fuse?) has a different issue. The short-length dowel is too long for the box. If I were to make it almost flush with the top of the 3-hole piece, some of the dowel would be visible sticking out the bottom. 

The photo below shows how close I could get to the illustrated version without altering the supplied pieces. 


Thursday, August 10, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #USclassics Tweets Annotated - Part 2

#USclassics

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. For July 2017, I used the theme #USclassics and presented an entire month of American composers with examples of their music.

Since Twitter only allows 140 characters, I couldn't include a lot of info about these composers. Part 1 covered the first week's tweets. The annotated list below is the American composers I featured the second week in July.

Benjamin Carr (1768–1831)

- Benjamin Carr came from a distinguished musical family. His father was a prominent music publisher in Boston, and both Benjamin and his brother Thomas were organists, music teachers, and composers. Carr published over 60 works, mostly art songs. He also composed works for the stage. His most popular work is the 1794 Federal Overture, which incorporates well-known American tunes.

George Frederick Bristow (1825–1898)

- The son of a renowned conductor and pianist, George Bristow received a first-rate musical education. He joined the New Your Philharmonic Society Orchestra as a violinist at 17 and became concertmaster at 25. Bristow thought that American classical music should be firmly rooted in American culture. Works such as the Rip van Winkle cantata, The Pioneer a Grand Cantata, The Great Republic, and the Niagara Symphony show Bristow's interest in American themes.


Dudley Buck (1839–1909)

Dudley Buck studied in Leipzig, Dresden, and Paris before returning to the States. He was a professional organist, as well as a conductor and composer. Buck wrote two operas (one only surviving in fragments), a symphony and many other works for orchestras, choruses, and organ. His Concert Variations on the Star-Spangled Banner, Op. 23 was his most popular organ work.

Edgar Stillman Kelley (1857–1944)

- Edgar Kelly was a Midwestern composer who was a colleague of Edward MacDowell (he later spent time at the MacDowell Colony). Kelly often used music from other cultures in his music (China, Arabia, Greek modes, American Indian melodies, etc.). His goal, both as a teacher and composer, was to have American classical music accepted as equal to the music of European countries -- both in those countries and with American audiences. Symphony No. 1 "Gulliver's Voyage to Lilliput", Op. 15.


Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869–1954)

- Harry Freeman was an opera composer, conductor, teacher -- and an African-American. He's credited with being the first such to have an opera produced (Epthalia, 1891). Freeman had to create his own companies to perform his works. At the time of his death, Freeman had composed over twenty operas, as well as other orchestral and choral works. Freeman was inspired to compose after hearing Tannhäuser at age 18. His inspiration did not go unnoticed. Freeman was known in his lifetime as "the black Wagner."

George Frederick McKay (1899–1970)

- George McKay was born in Washington state and remained in the Pacific Northwest throughout most of his career. He incorporated American folk elements into his work, including jazz, folk songs, and Native American melodies. McKay founded the Composition Department at the University of Washington. William Bolcom and John Cage were some of his more famous students. Evocation Symphony "Symphony for Seattle"


Elinor Remick Warren (1900–1991)

- Elinor Remick Warren studied piano with Leopold Godowsky, and composition with Nadia Boulanger. Warren wrote over 200 compositions, most in a neo-romantic style. Her works include several large-scale choral works and symphonic pieces. Towards the end of her life, Warren's music began to reach a larger audience through recordings.

Gail Kubik (1914–1984)

- Like many American composers of the mid-Twentieth Century, Gail Kubik studied with Nadia Boulanger. He also studied with Leo Sowerby and Walter Piston. Kubik was a staff composer for NBC Radio and served as music director for the Motion Picture Bureau at the Office of War Information. As a result, Kubik's style, while progressive and original, is always accessible. He wrote the score for Gerald McBoing-Boing and won the Pulitzer in 1952 for his Symphony Concertante.


Yehudi Wyner (born 1929)

- Yehudi Wyner spent most of his childhood and a good deal of his professional life in the greater New York City area. Wyner often celebrates his Jewish heritage in his music. His 1963 "Friday Evening Service" is among his best-known works. I'd personally describe his style as a post-serial romanticism. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Piano Concerto, "Chiavi in Mano," which includes some jazz influences.

Thomas Oboe Lee (born 1945)

- Lee's family left Communist China in 1949. They eventually made their way to the United States. Lee has won many awards for his music, including the Rome Prize. Lee writes in a modernist post-tonal style. While immediately accessible, his works also push beyond the limits of traditional classical forms.


Roger Bourland (born 1952)

- Roger Bourland was part of the Boston-based Composers in Red Sneakers, along with Thomas Oboe Lee. His music combines advanced compositional techniques with accessible melodies and usually strong tonal centers. Bourland's written operas and cantatas as well as works for orchestra and chamber groups. A student of Gunther Schuller, Bourland's comfortable with incorporating elements of popular music into his works. American Baroque

Annotated List for Week 1: Charles Theodor Pachelbel through Roger Zare
Annotated List for Week 2: Benjamin Carr through Roger Bourland
Annotated List for Week 3: William Billings through Adrienne Albert

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Fabio Biondi Performs Leclair with Clarity

In a recent interview, Fabio Biondi said, "the music is first, the composer is first – and then we [the musicians] follow." That artistic stance makes this new release of Leclair concertos such a treasure.

Jean-Marie Leclair was a virtuoso violinist credited with founding the French violin school. Like many performers, he wrote music primarily for himself to play in public. These works give us an idea of his technical abilities.

Leclair also left extensive notes and instructional materials behind, so we also have a good idea of his preferences for phrasing and articulation.

Fabio Biondi is the soloist for this selection of Leclair concertos. And by placing the composer/performer first, Biondi gives us an idea of Leclair's extraordinary talent, and how it could generate an entire school of playing.

Biondi plays with a light touch, with his bow fairly dancing across the strings. At the same time, each note is articulated with precision. Leclair's music is expressive, but it's tempered by subtlety and refinement -- especially as played by Biondi.

Leclair's concertos are models of French Baroque balance and form. The Europa Galante performs them with a warm, measured sound. The ensemble plays elegantly without sounding restrained.

Of course, we can never know for certain what Leclair actually sounded like. But I can't help but think these clean, attractive performances come very close.

Jean-Marie Leclair: Violin Concertos
Op. 7, Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5
Europa Galante
Fabio Biondi, solo violin and director
Glossa GCD 923407

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Straco Express Layout, Part 58 - Shioji Shell

The Shioji Shell Tanker.
Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

I know I just posted something very similar last week (Part 57- Data Dump). But the frequency just reflects the reality of the marketplace. About a week after I found the dump truck, another vehicle using the same chassis became available -- and became my latest acquisition.

I've also learned that these vehicles were made by Shioji & Co., Ltd. Osaka, Japan. Although these smaller, "penny toys" are unmarked, they did brand their larger toys with "SSS."

This Shioji truck is the fourth one I own, and it seems to be the newest. The biggest clue is the chassis, which is made out of much cheaper and thinner metal than the previous versions. My guess is that this represents the final version of this truck before the switch was made from metal to plastic (ca. 1963).

From left to right, oldest to newest: the Express van, dump truck,
covered flatbed truck, cattle truck, Shell tanker.

And the tank truck's different enough for me to revise my chronology.
  • First generation: Rivet head hubcaps, flat chassis bottom, six securing tabs.
  • Second generation: Solid hubcaps (cheaper to make and install), rounded chassis bottom
  • Third generation: Four securing tabs instead of six
  • Fourth generation: Thinner chassis in gun metal rather than black finish

That sag behind the cab isn't from excessive use. The gun metal chassis'
just too thin. It was most likely bent during assembly. 
The Shell tanker, like the rest of these Shioji vehicles look great on the Straco Express display layout. But they put the smaller 3" tank trucks to shame. And with five of these Shioji trucks on the display, I find that I'm having to use the larger cars to have everything look proportionally right.

The 3" Nomura Mobilgas tanker does not compare well
to the Shioji Shell tanker.


I never thought scale would matter with this layout!


Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:
  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Shioji Express Truck $10.00
  • Shioji Covered Truck $12.50
  • Shioji Dump Truck $9.95
  • Shioji Shell Tanker $10.50
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $290.30

Monday, August 07, 2017

Diabelli Project 159 - Agnus Dei for SATB

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

I'm not sure why, but this week I sketched out the beginning of another mass movement. I have been listening to a lot of Renaissance choral music lately.

This sketch begins a setting of the Agnus Dei. I ran out of time at about the point where things got interesting. Perhaps I should do two flash composition sessions a week. The second could pick up where the first left off. I might actually get a complete work out such a system -- written in ten-minute chunks.

A common theme with me seems to be starting with a unison and having the voices gradually peel off in different directions. Had this sketch continued, the voices would have continued to branch out independently.

Although this sets a part of the mass, I'm not sure it ties in with the Kyrie Eleison I posted earlier. Will there be more? I don't know -- although I think it's unlikely I'll be setting a Credo anytime soon. That is a lot of text to go through. And I only have ten minutes.



As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 060 Apothecary Scales

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

060. Apothecary Scales

This build had a few problems. In the illustration, there are three single-hole boxes. One on each arm, and one at the top of the post, supporting the arms. But the kit only comes with two single-hole boxes. So I had to substitute one of the longer 3-hole boxes.

The second problem was how to make the arms move up and down. The illustration suggests some additional assembly behind the center box, but I couldn't make it out. I decided to just put together what was visible and ignore the rest.

All in all, the apothecary scales were much easier to put together than the last few models. But we're only 40% of the way through this project. I'm sure I haven't seen the last of near-impossible builds.



Thursday, August 03, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #USclassics Tweets Annotated - Part 1

#USclassics

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. For July 2017, I decided to use the theme #USclassics, and present an entire month of American composers with examples of their music.

Twitter only allows 140 characters, pretty much limiting my tweets to the composer's name, the title of the work, links, and hashtags. Below is an annotated list of those tweets, providing a little more background for each composer.

Charles Theodore Pachelbel (1690–1750)

- Like his father Johann Pachelbel (writer of the Canon), Charles Theodore was an organist and composer. He emigrated from Germany in 1733. He first settled in Boston but soon moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he spent the rest of his life. There he was at the center of one of the most sophisticated musical communities in the colonies.

Supply Belcher (1751–1836)

- The Second Great Awakening (1790-1820) was an American spiritual revival movement that resulted in a huge increase in Baptist and Methodist congregations. Demand for music was met by, among others, the First New England School of self-taught composers. Supply Belcher was a member of that school, writing hymns for amateur and often musically illiterate small church choirs. Nevertheless, the "Handel of Maine" produced well-crafted works that are still being performed today.



William Henry Fry (1813–1864)

- William Henry Fry holds the distinction of being the first native-born American to compose for symphony orchestra and the first to have an opera performed. Fry was also the first music critic for a major American newspaper (Greeley's New York Tribune). Fry continually encouraged the support of American music by American audiences.

Charles Lucien Lambert (1828–1896)

- Charles Lambert was born a "free person of color" in New Orleans. He moved first to France in 1854 then to Brazil in the 1860s. Abroad Lambert enjoyed a successful concert pianist and composer, which he couldn't do in America. He was a contemporary and colleague of Louis Moreau Gottschalk.



Eugene Thayer (1838–1889)

- Eugene Thayer was an organ virtuoso and composer. Like many organists, his compositions are almost exclusively for his instrument. Thayer's career mainly revolved around Boston and New York City. Thayer's most performed composition is the fugue on "America," from his second organ sonata.

Avery Claflin (1898–1979)

- Like Charles Ives, Avery Claflin's professional career was in business, which left him freed him from commercial reasons to compose. Claflin studied with Satie, whose influence can be heard in his music. After retiring in 1959, Claflin devoted himself to composition full-time.



Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953)

- Ruth Crawford Seeger started her musical career as a contemporary composer, part of a group labeled the "ultramoderns." She eventually married one of her composition teachers, Charles Seeger. Seeger was an early ethnomusicologist, and Ruth Crawford Seeger came to embrace her husband's passion for traditional folk music. It was something her children, son Mike Seeger and stepson Pete Seeger would become famous for.

Vivian Fine (1913–2000)

- Vivian Fine wrote over 140 compositions. A student of Roger Sessions, her works were often dissonant though her style softened over time. She was also a master of counterpoint, as well as orchestration.



Karel Husa (born 1921)

- Karel Husa was born in Czechoslovakia. He emigrated to the US in 1854 and became a citizen in 1959. Husa won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1969. His work often incorporated avant-garde techniques, such as serialism or microtonality. Husa's primary concern was communication, and his works often have a dramatic impact.

Roger Zare (born 1985)

- Roger Zare is an American composer and pianist currently based in Chicago. He's primarily known for his orchestral and wind ensemble works.



Annotated List for Week 2: Benjamin Carr through Roger Bourland
Annotated List for Week 3: William Billings through Adrienne Albert
Annotated List for Week 4: Edmond Dédé through Kevin Fuchs

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Toccata Classics revives Tadeusz Majerski

Count Polish composer Tadeusz Majerski among the many artists who ran afoul of authoritarian governments and suffered the consequences. In Pajerski's case, the authorities were the Polish Communist Party and the price was professional obscurity.

This Toccata Classics release may help restore some of Majerski's reputation. Majerski embraced the new while incorporating traditional Polish music. That newness (including 12-tone experiments) made him a "formalist," and ensured his music wouldn't receive public performances.

The Four Piano Preludes may show the influence of Schoenberg, but there's nothing formalistic about them. Here 12-tone rows are pressed into the service of musical expression. Instead of academic exercises, these preludes are finely-crafted miniatures of authentic emotion that owe more to Chopin than they do to Schoenberg.

Pianist Michal Drewnowski brings Majerski's music to life through his energetic performances. And credit him with rescuing it from oblivion.

The stunning Concerto-Poem for Piano and Orchestra only existed in manuscript, and it was primarily through Drewnowski's efforts that the complete score was finally assembled, performed, and recorded.

And it was well worth the effort. Majerksi manages to encapsulate the gravitas of Brahms and the drama of Richard Strauss into this work -- and sound completely original in the process.

Though written and revised in the postwar era, the composition doesn't sound dated. Rather, it has both immediate appeal and substantial depth that rewards repeated listening.

The other works on the release -- the Piano Quintet and the Cello Sonata -- are of similar quality, yet of a different character. Majerski's music rewards the listener on many different levels, as do the performances in this release.

Tadeusz Majerski: Concerto-Poem and Other Works
Michal Drewnowski, piano
Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Emil Tabakov, conductor
New Art Chamber Soloists; Arkadiusz Dobrowolski, cello
Toccata Classics TOCC 0344

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Straco Express Layout, Part 57 - Data Dump

Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

Two years ago I found the first variation to the cattle truck I owned as boy (Part 42 - Express Duality). Now all of a sudden, it seems as if there's no end to the ways in which this truck chassis was used.

Two weeks ago I shared my discovery of a flatbed version (Part 56 - Trucking Transition?). And now here's another!

The dump truck uses the same chassis as the three previous trucks in this series. It has a very simple lift mechanism. Just turn the lever and the bed tips up (sometimes it needs a little help).

The lift mechanism is simply a tab connected to a lever. Simple, but it works.
I'd already sketched out a timeline for the vehicles I had. It appeared to me that there were three different phases.

  • First generation: Rivet head hubcaps, flat chassis bottom, six securing tabs.
  • Second generation: Solid hubcaps (cheaper to make and install), rounded chassis bottom
  • Third generation: Four securing tabs instead of six
So where did this dump truck fit in? I think it's a first generation vehicle.

These two vehicles have identical chassis, which suggests they were
made at the same time. 
The dump truck has the riveted axles and the six tabs securing the body to the chassis. And the chassis has the same shape as that of the Express van.

All four trucks in chronological order, left to right. 
And how does this dump truck fit into the Straco Express display layout? Quite well. There is one thing, though. These trucks look proportionally correct next to the (mostly) H0 gauge trains. But they make some of the other friction vehicles look a little strange.

In order to get the shot below to look good, I had to use some of the bigger cars. and trucks.  





Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:
  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Shioji Express Truck $10.00
  • Shioji Covered Truck $12.50
  • Shioji Dump Truck $9.95
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $279.80