Happy Winter Solstice!


Source: Happy Winter Solstice!

The Music Goes ‘Round and Around (Reblog Review of Oliver Sacks’ “Musicophilia”)

A very nice review of Oliver Sack’s “Musicophilia,” in which I’m currently immersed. Take a swim through the ebb and flow of music playing in your mind.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and I finally picked it up after finishing Oliver Sack’s autobiography.

Why do we make music? Why do we listen to it? What goes on in the mind when we listen to it, or create it, or when our ability to make sense of it breaks down? Sacks explores these and many other questions in his never-boring typical fashion–by presenting the case study of one of his patients or correspondents who has a condition related to music. In the first, a doctor who was hit in the face by lightning, has a near death experience and awakes with a passion for classical piano music, which he begins hearing. He believes it’s a gift, so he learns to play piano and read music so he can perform the music he is channeling and write it down.

We proceed to learn that music sometimes is heard before the onset of a stroke, after an accident, on being exposed to certain persistent sounds, as one goes deaf, and even for no particular reason. We learn of people who hallucinate music either at will or uncontrollably, some of whom are nearly driven mad by it, or others who find solace in it as their years dwindle and they become more and more isolated from friends or family. He also discusses the what’s of “earworms” and why we can’t sticky melodies out of our head.

The book resonates with me, not because I am plagued like some of his poor, or lucky patients, but because the enjoyment of music has played such a large role in my life. For example, as I’ve written elsewhere, while swimming countless laps in practice on my high school team, I would listen to overtures to Rossini operas in their entirety or passages from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto Number 1. Why even today, at the pool, I couldn’t get the song, “Stranger to Himself” by the 1970s group, Traffic, out of my head.

Another interesting fact Sacks explains is that music “is constructed” from its constituent parts–rhythm, tone, harmony, melody, etc.–in different parts of the brain. A stroke in one hemisphere of the brain might make one tone deaf, while a stroke in the other hemisphere might destroy our ability to perceive rhythm.

How about you? Do you hear music all the time? Do melodies or tunes you’ve never heard before pop into your head? Are you a musician or not musically trained at all? Do you suddenly remember musical songs from childhood, and does anything trigger it, like Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past?” Please let me know in the comment section.

In the mean time, I hope you enjoy Tim’s review below and click on the link below to listen to a performance of the lightning-induced music of Dr. Tony Cicoria.

Tony Cicoria performs his “Lightning-Sonata” at Mozart House in Vienna

An Honest Con

MusicophiliaMusicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain
Oliver Sacks

Earlier this year, at the age of 82, Oliver Sacks passed away.  Along with Lewis Thomas (and, arguably, Benjamin Spock) he broke down the doors between the high priesthood of medicine and the poor supplicants who require medical help.

Sacks was a neurologist whose notoriety grew over the last 4 decades or so as he published case studies of his most interesting patients. If the old saw is that medicine is as much an art as a science, Sacks did his best to live up to that. His writing was never fussy and while he never

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Frank Zappa – Jonestown (Reblog)

Source: Frank Zappa – Jonestown (Zappa)

Happy Belated 75th Birthday Frank Zappa!

Your music drifted in and out of my life. I first heard you whe a friend of my brother’s brought over a copy of Absolutely Free in 1967 (when I was 12). It amazed me and I kept listening to it through high school. It shaped my thinking about school spirit and team sports and cheerleaders. Look, he wrote this when America was coming out of the 1950’s teeny-bopper Greaser mentality and America was confronting its darker aspects with men dying in a stupid war in Vietnam and race riots raged.

Zappa went on to skewer just about every social convention and conceit. He once said that he had a rock band so that he could finance his work as a “serious composer.” He was a devote of Varese and Stravinsky, and the latter is quoted in the middle of that previous song. Near the end of his life he was getting recognition, mostly in Europe, for his work as a composer. Pierre Boulez conducted his work, and one of the last performances of his work was in Berlin by the Ensemble Moderne. This was recorded and put out on a posthumous album entitle “Yellow Shark.” It contains another of my favorites by him: “G-Spot Tornado.”

The dance was choreographed and performed by Louise Cavalier.

Hard to believe he passed away in 1993. So many excellent musicians passed through his bands over the years–Ruth and Ian Underwood, Jean-Luc Ponty, George Duke, Captain Beefheart, Adrian Belew, and Steve Vai are just the tip of the iceberg.

We have no iconoclastic genius like this in our midst these days.

Béla Bartók: String Quartet Number 6

It’s been over 40 years since a friend in college told me about Béla Bartók’s string quartets. Up until that point, the only quartets I’d listened to were Beethoven’s Late Quartets (Opus 127-135). They were all I wanted–ever. My friend told me that Bartok tried in a number of movements to capture the sound and feeling of the night. I checked a copy of the quartets out of the library and tried listening to them. Even though, I was listening to Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern at the time, I simply found them incomprehensible. So, I’m going to sit down and give them a listen. There are six, so being cantankerous, I thought I’d start with the last one.

Here’s a description from Wikipedia of Quartet Number 6.

And here’s a fine youtube performance by the Takács Quartet.

Let me know what you think of it.

December 16.  Beethoven’s 245th Birthday.  Reblog of “The Hearing Loss of Beethoven” by James Vitale

Happy birthday Ludwig.  Here’s my favorite piece. Heaven would be listening to this.

While you’re here, check out James Vitales blog post on Beethoven’s Deafness.

The hearing loss of the famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven was caused by a genetic defect that eroded the bones of his inner ear. Tragic for such an amazing man.

Source: The Hearing Loss of Beethoven

Beethoven’s Remix (A Mass of Haiku) – Reblog from the preppie nihilist with my annotations.

Source: Beethoven’s Remix (A Mass of Haiku)  (Check out this writer’s poetry.)

Here are links to the work referenced a set of brilliant Haiku by a blogger you can find in the above link. Tell the Blogger what you think of his Haiku, and let me know what you think of these performances.

Beethoven Violin Sonata No 9 Op 47 “Kreutzer” (Anne Sophie Mutter, Lambert Orkis Zohari performing)

Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 – I. Allegro con brio

Beethoven, Overture “Fidelio” Op 72 (Otto Klemperer conducts from 1961)

Beethoven Symphony No 7 in A Major Op 92 Allegretto (Simon Denis Rattle conducts)

Beethoven Symphony No.8 in F major, Op.93 1st Allegro vivace e con brio (Sir John Barbirolli conducts the The Hallé Orchestra)

“Hammerklavier“, Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major, Op. 106 (Daniel Barenboim performing)

String Quartet No. 14 in C♯ minor, op. 131 (Alban Berg Quartet)

Song of the Day: November 17

A tribute to those who died in Paris, and last week at the Planned Parenthood center in Kansas, and today in San Bernadino, California, and I AM SO ANGRY AT THIS NEEDLESS SUFFERING.

No Song Is Safe From Us

Steven Blier (photo Liv Hoffman)Steven Blier returns to Song of the Day this week:

Like most people on this planet, I was deeply disturbed and saddened by the terrorist attacks in Paris. I have nothing intelligent or cogent to say about the massacre, except that I hope it doesn’t fuel more xenophobia and racism in our country or anywhere else in the world.

To honor the dead and comfort the living, my song of the day is the final movement of the Fauré Requiem. I have a special relationship to this piece, which I first heard when I was in ninth grade. I had a noon study hall one floor below the room where our chorus had its weekly rehearsal, and I heard the Fauré wafting down like a gauzy, heavenly missive. (I soon met the baritone soloist, a 17-year old named Matthew Epstein who has been a friend for five decades. Later that year…

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