July 19, birthday of Marianna Auenbrugger (1759 – 1782)

Since I published this, I found this website dedicated to female composers:  Association of Swedish Women Composers (KVAST).

Finally! After a couple of months searching for the names of composers in each day’s Wikipedia entry, I found my first female composer.  What is it with the classical music world?  Even in many European countries, gender parity and equal pay for musicians lag far behind that of men.  This brings me to some research I learned of that’s looked into the causes and solutions to the imbalance.

Recently, I started teaching a workshop entitles “Everyday Bias,” created by Howard Ross.  One of the examples of bias that Ross gives is how many orchestras have adopted a technique to reduce gender bias against women in orchestras when selected based on live audition.  I decided to look up the study on the web, and found some related background ones as well.

For example, in 1996 a paper was published revealeding that:

“In a cross-national study, the gender researchers Allmendinger and Hackman have established percentages for the representation of women in orchestras in four countries: 36% for the USA; 30% for the United Kingdom, and 16% for both East and West Germany. They also found that women were concentrated in lower paid orchestras, and that they are notably less present in major orchestras.  Far from leading the way, gender integration in orchestras is lagging behind the progress being made in the rest of society.”  (Osborne, William, “Art Is Just an Excuse: Gender Bias in International Orchestras. October 1996 issue of the IAWM Journal, pp. 6-14.)

Osborne culled through many studies and other data on the topic.  He cites the factors which have contributed to, or–in many cases– have allowed men to continue this practice:

“We could summarize these conservative tendencies of international orchestras with the following five factors. 1) They believe that music has qualities defined by gender and ethnicity, and that the uniformity of these factors produces aesthetic superiority.  2) Traditional values about the sexuality of subjugation and women disturb the uniform dynamic of authority in the orchestra´s hierarchical atmosphere.  3)  The gender bias is constellated with chauvinistic overtones of national and ethnic superiority.  4)  The attitudes toward women are affected by the cross-national interaction of the conductors and musicians.  5) Patrons expect a masculine and ethnic character to orchestral music.” (ibid.)

The statistics for American orchestras are much better because of “blind” auditions practices that were adopted during the 1970s and 80s.  In a blind audition, the judges sit behind a screen and cannot observe who is playing.  Some orchestras also cover the audition stage with a carpet so judges cannot hear the footsteps, which differ greatly between men and women.  The results, according to Dr. Cecilia Rouse of Princeton, a labor economist who studies the effects of  gender bias, were striking:

“we find that the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round. By the use of the roster data, the switch to blind auditions can explain 30 percent of the increase in the proportion female among new hires and possibly 25 percent of the increase in the percentage female in the orchestras from 1970 to 1996.”  (Goldin, Claudia and Cecilia Rouse. 2000. “Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians.” American Economic Review, 90(4): 715-741.)

It is very hard for people to deny their biases when the data is provided.  Based on similar studies on the biases against name, physical attribute, or ethnic origin, some employers remove the names and pictures from CVs submitted so those can not be used unconsciously by the staff involved in the recruitment.

At least for female musical performers, employability in orchestras has somewhat improved in some places, however, I wonder if anyone has studied why there are so few female composers.  Actually, according to Wikipedia, there appear to be hundreds.

So why do we hear so little about them?

According to Wikipedia, Marianna Auenbrugger (1759 – 1782) studied with Hayden and Salieri in Vienna, the latter publishing a one of her works at his own expense after her death. Whoop-dee-doo!

Below is the only Youtube video I could find of Marianna, and it’s only the Rondo from her Sonata in E-flat.

Sonata in E flat Major Rondo

<P>

July 18, birthday of Roger Reynolds

Fascinating guy, this Roger Reynolds (b. 1934). Studied piano, gave it up to become an engineer, became a military policeman, and then went back to school for music. There he met a composer, who whipped him into shape and his career took off. He studied and hung out with Milton Babbit, John Cage, Nadia Boulanger, and Harry Partch. Then he moved overseas for a while and had a fellowship  at the French Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris for 20 years, invented software for solving problems in being able to produce some of his compositions.  The second piece below, Archipelago (1982–83), is one of the pieces he created in collaboration with a software assistant.

Cello Concerto “Thoughts, Places, Dreams…”

<P>

Archipelago (1982–83)<P>

July 17, birthday of Peter Schickele

This is a repost from August 2013.  In addition to writing paradoies of baroque music, he also composed music for Joan Baez, the musical Oh! Calcutta! the first all nude broadway musical.

I mentioned before that my friend Kerry Wade had been a fan of Peter Schickele, who’d parodied baroque music under the nom de plume of P.D.Q Bach. Around the time of Switched-On Bach, Schickele released a comedy album, whose premise was a small classical public radio station (W.O.O.F.) at the “University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.”

Between farm commodity reports, the announcer ran a contest called “What’s My Melodic Line?” Listeners were invited to send in the name of a piece by a baroque composer, which a panel of experts musicians then had to try to play off the top of their head. Should the listener succeed, they would be entered in a yearly competition. The grand prize was the complete works of Antonio Vivaldi recorded on “convenient 45 rpm records,” which would be sent to the winner one a week “over the next 35 years.” The composer of the day was described as ” the prolific and least known of all the prolific and little known composers of the baroque period.”

One of my favorite types of humor has always been parody, so Schickele’s poking fun at baroque music really resonated with me. Serious musicians, however, tended to look down their nose at Schickele. I’m not sure why. That someone told jokes about music didn’t stop me from listening to music.

Maybe Schickele was actually making fun of serious musicians and composers of his own day. Only a fraction of Vivaldi’s music, I recently heard, has ever been recorded. And he was prolific. Perhaps Schickele was saying, “how come today, there aren’t any composers around like that?” Or perhaps, he was criticizing how people just keep going back and recording over and over again the same old familiar stuff. Every time I turn on the radio and hear Barber’s Adiagio for Strings or Pachelbel’s Canon for the umpteenth time, I want to throw something at it.

Finally, maybe he was making fun of the bubbly baroque style. Sometimes it is just too upbeat and gets on your nerves. Also, because of its conventions, it seems too “happy” to convey serious themes. For example, Handel wrote an oratorio called Israel in Egypt. In one chorus, the text recounts how Moses called down the plagues on Egypt. It goes something like:

“He spake the work and all manner of flies and lice descended.”

I still laugh whenever I think of that line. Schickele clearly had Handel in mind when he wrote : “Cantata, Iphegenia In Brooklyn.” Here is the complete text:

“ARIA: As Hyperion across the flaming sky his chariot did ride, Iphegenia herself in Brooklyn found.

RECITATIVE: And lo, she found herself within a market, and all around her fish were dying; and yet their stench did live on.

GROUND: Dying, and yet in death alive.

RECITATIVE: And in a vision Iphegenia saw her brother Orestes, who was being chased by the Amenities; and he cried out in anguish: “Oh ye gods, who knows what it is to be running? Only he who is running knows.”

ARIA: Running knows.”

Schickele scored the piece for double reeds. Normally that means oboes and English horns, but he had the musician just use the reeds, not the instruments. The result was a kind of musical Bronx cheer. In addition, the lead voice is a counter tenor, a part that requires a man with a bass voice to sing in falsetto, which imitates the castratto or male soprano which was popular back then. See what I mean by the conventions being kind of incongruous with the subject?

Obviously, the baroque era produced sublime works as well. Eventually, I will get around to discussing them. But, I want to reiterate that Schickele and the other popularization of the classics that took place in the 60s (such as “Switched-On Bach”) probably did more to help the cause of classical music than it did harm. And I will love to the day I die that horrible pun of that last aria in the Cantata, Iphegenia In Brooklyn.

Peter Schickele: Cantata, Iphegenia In Brooklyn

I mentioned before that my friend Kerry Wade had been a fan of Peter Schickele, who’d parodied baroque music under the nom de plume of P.D.Q Bach. Around the time of Switched-On Bach, Schickele released a comedy album, whose premise was a small classical public radio station (W.O.O.F.) at the “University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.”

Between farm commodity reports, the announcer ran a contest called “What’s My Melodic Line?” Listeners were invited to send in the name of a piece by a baroque composer, which a panel of experts musicians then had to try to play off the top of their head. Should the listener succeed, they would be entered in a yearly competition. The grand prize was the complete works of Antonio Vivaldi recorded on “convenient 45 rpm records,” which would be sent to the winner one a week “over the next 35 years.” The composer of the day was described as ” the prolific and least known of all the prolific and little known composers of the baroque period.”

One of my favorite types of humor has always been parody, so Schickele’s poking fun at baroque music really resonated with me. Serious musicians, however, tended to look down their nose at Schickele. I’m not sure why. That someone told jokes about music didn’t stop me from listening to music.

Maybe Schickele was actually making fun of serious musicians and composers of his own day. Only a fraction of Vivaldi’s music, I recently heard, has ever been recorded. And he was prolific. Perhaps Schickele was saying, “how come today, there aren’t any composers around like that?” Or perhaps, he was criticizing how people just keep going back and recording over and over again the same old familiar stuff. Every time I turn on the radio and hear Barber’s Adiagio for Strings or Pachelbel’s Canon for the umpteenth time, I want to throw something at it.

Finally, maybe he was making fun of the bubbly baroque style. Sometimes it is just too upbeat and gets on your nerves. Also, because of its conventions, it seems too “happy” to convey serious themes. For example, Handel wrote an oratorio called Israel in Egypt. In one chorus, the text recounts how Moses called down the plagues on Egypt. It goes something like:

“He spake the work and all manner of flies and lice descended.”

I still laugh whenever I think of that line. Schickele clearly had Handel in mind when he wrote : “Cantata, Iphegenia In Brooklyn.” Here is the complete text:

“ARIA: As Hyperion across the flaming sky his chariot did ride, Iphegenia herself in Brooklyn found.

RECITATIVE: And lo, she found herself within a market, and all around her fish were dying; and yet their stench did live on.

GROUND: Dying, and yet in death alive.

RECITATIVE: And in a vision Iphegenia saw her brother Orestes, who was being chased by the Amenities; and he cried out in anguish: “Oh ye gods, who knows what it is to be running? Only he who is running knows.”

ARIA: Running knows.”

Schickele scored the piece for double reeds. Normally that means oboes and English horns, but he had the musician just use the reeds, not the instruments. The result was a kind of musical Bronx cheer. In addition, the lead voice is a counter tenor, a part that requires a man with a bass voice to sing in falsetto, which imitates the castratto or male soprano which was popular back then. See what I mean by the conventions being kind of incongruous with the subject?

Obviously, the baroque era produced sublime works as well. Eventually, I will get around to discussing them. But, I want to reiterate that Schickele and the other popularization of the classics that took place in the 60s (such as “Switched-On Bach”) probably did more to help the cause of classical music than it did harm. And I will love to the day I die that horrible pun of that last aria in the Cantata, Iphegenia In Brooklyn.

The Wurst of P.D.Q. Bach

What wonderfully upliftingly funny stuff.

The Prudent Groove

P.D.Q. Bach CoverThere are days when I hate The Groove. This time sucking, sleep-depriving exercise that began, mainly to explore my record collection (and the limits of my patience), loves to sneak up on me. Just when I think I’ll have a quick post, and then merrily continue on with my day, something interesting pops up and I’m forced to explore it, or live out the rest of my days regretting the time I DIDN’T spend on something worthy of, well, my time. I blame this guilty conscience, and P.D.Q. Bach.

I was going to introduce a “new category” today. I was going to call it Cover Focus, where the subject of the post would, well, focus on an album’s cover (I could have managed another, more creative title, but it was 6:04 in the morning, so, lay off!). I had the cover to The Wurst of P.D.Q. Bach in…

View original post 241 more words

P.D.Q. Bach (AKA Peter Schickele): Sinfonia Concertante (S. 98.6)

For a child, change can seem daunting. In seventh grade, our township built a middle school to absorb the baby boomers causing over crowding in the high school. Some people rumored that middle schools were based on a Chinese idea and were against anything that hinted of communism. It was a new idea to mix seventh, eighth, and ninth graders together, and the thought of being thrown in with older kids and new ones from other parts of the township scared me. What if I weren’t in classes with friends? What if there were bullies?

I had come to be known as the class clown–more because I loved to tell jokes and make people laugh than for any other reason. One day in the new school, a friend told me about another student who was also very funny and arranged a meeting. I was a bit wary at first. Bit when I did meet Kerry Wade, we clicked immediately and became fast friends.

Kerry was the youngest of two brothers, the oldest of which had graduated from college and had majored in music and got a Ph.D. in psychology. His father was fairly well-off and provided Kerry with a lot of things that fed his interests. One of Kerry’s passions was the Marx brothers. His parent could afford a rooftop TV aerial (back before cable), and could pull in WGN from Chicago, which ran old movies. Kerry also had a reel-to-reel tape recorder and had taped all the Marx brothers films.

From Kerry, I learned the genius of the one-liner, the smart-alecky remark, the double entendre, and the prat-fall. Though I never actually saw any of the films until college, I knew most of Groucho’s best lines by heart.

Kerry loved sports cars and was also a gifted painter. We would pour over classic car books in the library and he once gave me a small book of the works of Chagall, who was one of his idols. My gimmick was to wear an old-fashioned tie (which I inherited from my grandfather) to school every day. Once, Kerry made a neck-tie for me on which he had drawn a picture of Harpo Marx ogling a set of legs, a soup stain with alphabet noodles glued on, and a picture of me driving my favorite car, an MGB TD.

Classical albums graced Kerry’s record collection, but he was more proud of his set of comedy records. While visiting his house one day, he showed me his latest possession–an odd-looking wind instrument. When I blew in it, it sounded like a duck. He laughed and told me it was a bagpipe without the bags and was used for learning the fingering. He took it apart and showed me how the double reed was actually in a chamber inside of the instrument. Kerry told me he was learning to play it.

“Why?” I asked. “So I can play this,” he said, taking an album from the shelf and cueing it up. It turned out to be the Peter Schickele’s (AKA P.D.Q. Bach) Sinfonia Concertante and when he played it I was captured by a brief but beautiful melody wheezed out by a bagpipe playing with a chamber orchestra.

Kerry had two albums by the professor, one of which spoofed a small classical radio station (Double U, Double O Eff) in Hoople, a mythical town in southern North Dakota. Schickele had a kind of Marx brother-type sense of humor which he grafted onto his skills as a composer by adopting the persona of P.D.Q Bach, “the last but least of J.S. Bach’s twenty-odd children.” Schickele had graduated from Julliard and wrote a number of songs for Joan Baez and the score for Oh Calcutta! the first nude musical. His compositions were full of musical jokes and awful puns, plagiarized famous works (the Quodlibet), satirized “serious” opera (Cantata: Iphigenia in Brooklyn), and he gave concerts full of slapstick and visual jokes (on instruments of his own invention like the left-handed sewer flute.)

Youtube does not have a performance of the Sinfonia Concertante, but I’ve included a link to a performance of Iphgenia in Brooklyn from his album, PDQ Bach at Carnegie Hall.

Peter Schickele enjoyed a bit of fame several years ago on public radio with his show “Schickele Mix,” but back in the 60s in Indiana, Kerry and I were the only ones who had ever heard of him. Kerry lives in Oregon now and creates fantastic furniture in an old school that he bought and turned into his studio. I am eternally grateful to him, and I would never reverse the change in schools which brought us together.

Peter Schickele: Cantata, Iphegenia In Brooklyn

I mentioned before that my friend Kerry Wade, had been a fan of Peter Schickele, who’d parodied baroque music under the nom de plume of P.D.Q Bach. Around the time of Switched-On Bach, Schickele released a comedy album, whose premise was a small classical public radio station (W.O.O.F.) at the “University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.”

Between farm commodity reports, the announcer ran a contest called “What’s My Melodic Line?” Listeners were invited to send in the name of a piece by a baroque composer, which a panel of experts musicians then had to try to play off the top of their head. Should the listener succeed, they would be entered in a yearly competition. The grand prize was the complete works of Antonio Vivaldi recorded on “convenient 45 rpm records,” which would be sent to the winner one a week “over the next 35 years.” The composer of the day was described as ” the prolific and least known of all the prolific and little known composers of the baroque period.”

One of my favorite types of humor has always been parody, so Schickele’s poking fun at baroque music really resonated with me. Serious musicians, however, tended to look down their nose at Schickele. I’m not sure why. That someone told jokes about music didn’t stop me from listening to music.

Maybe Schickele was actually making fun of serious musicians and composers of his own day. Only a fraction of Vivaldi’s music, I recently heard, has ever been recorded. And he was prolific. Perhaps Schickele was saying, “how come today, there aren’t any composers around like that?” Or perhaps, he was criticizing how people just keep going back and recording over and over again the same old familiar stuff. Every time I turn on the radio and hear Barber’s Adiagio for Strings or Pachelbel’s Canon again, I want to throw something at it.

Finally, maybe he was making fun of the bubbly baroque style. Sometimes it is just too upbeat and gets on your nerves. Also, because of its conventions, it seems too “happy” to convey serious themes. For example, Handel wrote an oratorio called Israel in Egypt. In one chorus, the text recounts how Moses called down the plagues on Egypt. It goes something like:

“He spake the work and all manner of flies and lice descended.”

I still laugh whenever I think of that line. Schickele clearly had Handel in mind when he wrote : Cantata, Iphegenia In Brooklyn. Here is the complete text:

“ARIA: As Hyperion across the flaming sky his chariot did ride, Iphegenia herself in Brooklyn found.

RECITATIVE: And lo, she found herself within a market, and all around her fish were dying; and yet their stench did live on.

GROUND: Dying, and yet in death alive.

RECITATIVE: And in a vision Iphegenia saw her brother Orestes, who was being chased by the Amenities; and he cried out in anguish: “Oh ye gods, who knows what it is to be running? Only he who is running knows.”

ARIA: Running knows.”

Schickele scored the piece for double reeds. Normally that means oboes and English horns, but he had the musician just use the reeds, not the instruments. The result was a kind of musical Bronx cheer. In addition, the lead voice is a counter tenor, a part that requires a man with a bass voice to sing in falsetto, which imitates the castratto or male soprano which was popular back then. See what I mean by the conventions being kind of incongruous with the subject?

Obviously, the baroque era produced sublime works as well. Eventually, I will get around to discussing them. But, I want to reiterate that Schickele and the other popularization of the classics that took place in the 60s (such as “Switched-On Bach”) probably did more to help the cause of classical music than it did harm. And I will love to the day I die that horrible pun of that last aria in the Cantata, Iphegenia In Brooklyn.

%d bloggers like this: