Monday, June 28, 2010

Festival on the 4th

The 4th of July is just around the corner. As usual, the Knoxville Symphony will be performing a free concert in World's Fair Park. The concert will feature festive favorites such as the 1812 Overture, Stars and Stripes Forever and a musical salute to members and veterans of our armed forces. The concert will begin at 8:00, but the festivities in the park start at 2:00. More information on the concert can be found here, at the main KSO website. Information on the festival can be found here on the Knoxville City website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jazz Recorder

This is a far cry from the recorder playing heard in elementary schools around the world... Amazing!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Igor Stravinsky

Subject: Igor Stravinsky

Born: June 17, 1882

Died: April 6, 1971

Known for: Being a jack of all styles. Stravinsky went through several distinct styles of composition including a period of neoclassicism and a period where he wrote serial music.

Child prodigy? Sort of. Stravinsky was passionate about music at an early age, and showed a lot of promise. His parents wanted him to be a lawyer.

Contribution to music: Rhythm! Stravinsky was a rhythmic revolutionary.

Happy or neurotic?: Mostly happy. Stravinsky had a wife, a lover, and lived in Russia, Switzerland, France, and the US.

Strange fact: Stravinsky's music was controversial on more than one occasion. The premier of the ballet The Firebird sparked a riot in the audience. When he was living in the US, he wrote a version of The National Anthem that contained some unconventional harmonies. After the first performance the parts were collected by the Boston Police Department to prevent further performance.

Upcoming performances: The Knoxville Symphony will perform Stravinsky's Suite from The Firebird on our 75th anniversary season May Masterworks concerts.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

We're #8

Forbes recently came out with a list of the top 10 places in the US to raise a family. Knoxville ranked #8! Of course, the study looked at things such as crime, education, cost of living, etc, to rank the cities on the list, but there are many, many other great family-related things about Knoxville. This summer my family is especially enjoying the extensive public library system, the summer parks and recreation programs, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the farmer's market, and the public fountains, among other things.

Another great thing about Knoxville is our extensive youth orchestra program. Did you know the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra is comprised of five orchestras of varying levels? That is only one less orchestra than the Chicago Youth Symphony system has in a city 16 times the size of Knoxville!

This week is the KYSO's summer string camp. All levels of string players have been working hard improving their orchestral playing this week. The final concert will take place on Friday (tomorrow) at 2:30 in the auditorium of Bearden High School.

It's too late to attend the camp, but if you know a child who would like to participate in the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Youth Symphony program this fall, you can find more information here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Richard Strauss!

Subject: Richard Strauss

Born: June 11, 1864 in Munich

Died: September 8, 1949 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Known for: Tone Poems. Strauss was heavily influenced by Wagner. His tone poems are masterpieces of virtuosity for the symphony orchestra.

Also known for: Politics. Although he never joined the Nazi party, and, in fact, privately reviled the party, Strauss is linked with Hitler and Goebbel. The situation is far to complex to fully explore here, but it seems to have been an advantageous relationship for Strauss: his daughter-in-law was Jewish and he used his connections to keep her and his grandchildren safe.

Child prodigy? Strauss began composing at age 6.

Contribution to music: Strauss pushed the harmonic envelope. He used dissonance for dramatic purposes, famously with the "Elektra Chord," which is an E major chord and a C# major chord played simultaneously.

Happy or neurotic?: Happy, mostly.

Strange fact: Because of it's virtuosity, Strauss' tone poem Don Juan is on the audition list for just about every orchestral instrument and is often used by symphonies to weed out candidates in the first round.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Music for Microbes

The therapeutic benefits of music have long been recognized. The music of Mozart, in particular, has been singled out as a sort of wonder music that will make you smarter, make your unborn baby a genius, and generally create peace and harmony everywhere. Some claims are legit, some are bogus, and some are just plain strange.

This is so bizarre, I'm not even sure where to start.

A sewage treatment plant in Germany has discovered that playing Mozart helps sewage-digesting microbes perform their job faster. A lot faster. The plant estimates they will be able to save about 1000 euros per month by serenading their muck-munching microbes with Mozart. According to Anton Stucki, chief operator at the sewage treatment center in question, the theory is that the vibrations in the music "create a certain resonance that stimulates the microbes and helps them work better."

I would ask how they came up with this idea, but I'm not sure I want to know the answer.

This is a discovery with great potential, though. We all have microbes in our bodies that aid in digestion. Maybe a belly full of Mozart is a cure for all sorts of gastrointestinal woes? Sounds like a good research project to me....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mighty Musical Monday!!!

If you're looking for something to do today at noon, head over to the Tennessee Theatre. Today is the first Monday of the month, which means that it is Mighty Musical Monday. On Mighty Musical Monday, Dr. Bill Snyder, house organist at the Tennessee Theatre, performs a free concert on the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. Also featured this month will be WIVK's Colleen Adair.

A few months ago I caught my first Mighty Musical Monday concert. It was great fun to see the Tennessee Theatre from the audience and also to see and hear the Mighty Wurlitzer being played so beautifully. These concerts are free. Concessions are sold as well as $5 brown bag lunches from The Lunch Box. The doors open at 11:30 and the concert begins at noon.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

DIY Music Theory

A friend shared this website with me awhile back and it is too good not to pass on here. If you have ever wanted to learn more about the nuts and bolts of how music is put together, this is a site you ought to explore. It covers all aspects of music theory from the basics of how to read music to aurally identifying French, German, and Italian augmented 6th chords. You can also have fun playing with the sections on melodic and harmonic dictation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Elgar!

Subject: Sir Edward Elgar

Born: June 2, 1857 in Broadheath, Worcester

Died: February 23, 1934 of intestinal cancer

Known for: beautiful melodies, music that can change from expansive to introspective as quickly as a cloud coming over the sun.

Child prodigy? Not particularly. Elgar studied music as a child. He was a fine violinist and made a living teaching music, but he did not receive widespread public acclaim as a composer until he was in his forties.

Contribution to music: Elgar was the first composer to understand the importance of audio recording, which was just emerging as a new technology. He recorded most of his works first on wax discs and later using electric microphones.

Happy or neurotic?: Happy. Elgar was happily married and had one child. When his wife Alice died in 1920 Elgar was devastated. At that point his productivity in composing slowed to a trickle with many works originating from sketches he had written earlier in his life.

Strange fact: Elgar had numerous hobbies including bicycling, soccer, and chemistry.