September 10, birthday of Henry Purcell (1659)

I first heard Henry Purcell‘s music on the sound track to an X-rated film. It was Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.” It was 1971; I was 16; and I was under the influence of one of the smartest people in my high school, who was captain of our swim team. You had to be 18 to see an X-rated film, so I and a few others on our swim team read the book.

Life magazine had a photo spread about the film, which stoked with our desire to see it, and when it finally reached the backwaters of South Bend, Indiana, where I was born we had to go. Of course, I couldn’t because I was under age and my friends said not to worry, they would tell the cashier at the box office they were my chaperones. The woman wouldn’t budge, and I didn’t see it. They did, and we all started acting like Burgess’ “droogies.”

On weekends we’d get drunk and engage in our own acts of “ultra-violence” like blowing up mailboxes, throwing rolls of toilet paper on the trees of cheerleaders’ parents’ houses, doing donuts (driving onto the lawn of a cheerleader’s parent’s house, spinning our wheels and turning the car in a circle).

It wasn’t until the ripe old age of 35 or so, that I got a chance to watch it on VHS tape (what we used to watch in the olden days before Netflix and youtube.) It actually disgusted me. Maybe because now I had two daughters, I did not find the scenes of rape choreographed to Rossini’s overture to “La Gazza Ladra” artistic. True it was a dark satire on the police, politics, education, school caning, and class of the UK and how that system created the main character. When the opposition party discovers that Alex has been brainwashed, they use him as a tool of propaganda and make him a celebrity. This still happens today–politicians only care about the down-trodden when they can blame their lot on the other side, as we’ve seen in many global elections.

Since I was underage, I could only enjoy the film through the book and its soundtrack. It was created by the composer Walter (now Wendy) Carlos (of Switched on Bach fame).

The piece that probably haunted me the most was Purcell’s “Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary,” which Carlos had heavily modified. Below is Carlos’s version besides a more traditional one. Which do you like?

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August 5, Birthday of Betsy Jolas (b. 1928)

Born in Paris between WWI and WWII, Betsy Jolas grew up in an enviable milieu. Her mother was a well-known translator and her father founded the literary magazine, “transition,” which published James Joyce’ Finnegan’s Wake as a “Work in Progress.” Her studies at the Paris Conservatory were interrupted by WWII and she and her family decamped to the US, where she completed her studies at Bennington. After the War, in 1946, her family returned to Paris, where Jolas continued her studies at the conservatoire with Darius Milhaud, Simone Plé-Caussade and Olivier Messiaen. She replaced Olivier Messiaen at the conservatory and has been on the faculty there since 1975. She has won many prizes and is both a Chevalier in the French Légion d’Honneurand and is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Points d’aube


String Quartet No. 3



D’un opéra de voyage (1967)


Quatuor II for soprano, violin, viola & cello


Enfantillages


POINTS D`OR concerto for saxophone(s) & 15 instruments

July 30, birthday of Alexina Diane Louie (b. 1949)

Alexina Diane Louie, OC OOntFRSC (born July 30, 1949) is a Canadian composer. She is of Chinese descent who has written many pieces for orchestra, as well as pieces for solo piano.

“O Moon”

I Leap Through The Sky With Stars

Warrior

Music for Piano

July 29, birthday of Sophie Menter (1846 — 1918)

From wikipedia: Sophie Menter (29 July 1846 — 23 February 1918) was a German pianist and composer who became the favorite female student of Franz Liszt.[1] She was called l’incarnation de Liszt in Paris because of her robust, electrifying playing style[1] and was considered one of the greatest piano virtuosos of her time.[2] She died at Stockdorf, near Munich.

Etude in A flat op. 9

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July 16-22. Female Composers born this week: Eve Beglarian, Pauline Viardot, Elisabeth Meyer, Marie de France, Marianna Auenbrugger.

It’s funny, I was talking to a friend today, telling her about how I’ve been featuring female composers, and she said, well there’s Pauline Viardot, who’s birthday is today.” The biography of Pauline Viardot (18 July 1821 – 18 May 1910) reads like a who’s who of 19th century composers and writers. She wanted to become a concert pianist, but her mother forced her to become a singer. Her looks and voice caught the attention of many writers and composers, many of whom fell in love with her or created works of art based on her life or to feature her voice. For example, George Sand’s, based her novel,
Consuelo, on Viardot. Gounod wrote wrote his opera Sapho, to feature her, as did Meyerbeer and Saint-Saëns

Here, Cecilia Bartoli sings Viardot’s Hai luli

Another nice piece is her Romance for Violin

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July 9-15. Female Composers born this week: Catherine Emingerová, Anna Cramer, and Hedwige (Gennaro)-Chrétien

Liza Lehmann (11 July 1862 – 19 September 1918) was an English operatic soprano and composer, known for her vocal compositions.

Bird Songs

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July 3, birthday of Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953)

Ruth Crawford Seeger is a surprise and delight. Originally a pianist, she began studying composing after moving to Chicago from Jacksonville, Florida. In the windy city, she came under the influence of Alexander Scriabin’s music and Theosophy. After marrying Charles Seeger (a musicologist and father of Pete), she moved with him to Washington, DC, where she worked closely with John and Alan Lomax at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress to preserve and teach American folk music. Her later life saw her arranging folk songs. Her work is breathtakingly varied and is a real find.

Sonata for Violin and Piano

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